Once there was a strange little boy called Peter, who drove everyone crazy asking questions all the time. When he was to go to school, he asked his mummy: “Why do I have to go to school?”
“Well, so you can learn how to read and write and count!”
“Can you do that?”
“Of course I can read and write and count!”
“So why don’t you just show me how to do it?”
“Because that’s not the way it’s done. Reading and writing and counting you have to learn in school!”
“And tying my shoelaces and brushing my teeth and going to the toilet?”
“These are things you learn at home!”
“Come on now, question time is over, now it’s time for bed”, mummy said.
When teacher wrote the letter A on the blackboard and said: “This is letter A!” Peter just said: “Why?”
“What do you mean: why, Peter?”
“Well, why is this letter A?”
“Look here, Peter: There are many different letters. And each letter has a different name. And with different letters, we can write different words. And this – well, this is letter A!”
“Yes, but why?” said Peter.
“Peter, you are keeping everybody. Just take your pen and copy letter A into your book, okay?”
When the children had learned all the letters, Peter said: “And how do you spell this?” clicking his tongue.
“Well this”, said Peter, clicking his tongue again.
“You cannot spell this”, teacher said.
“Why?” said Peter.
“Because there are no words with that kind of sound!”
“So what if I call my dog? I always call my dog like this!”
“Peter, we have to get on with our work now, okay?”
When the children learned that two plus two equals four, Peter only said: “Why?”
“What do you mean: why, again?” teacher said.
“Well, why does two plus two equal four?”
“Look here, Peter, look here: Here are two apples on the table. Now if we put another two apples on the table, and we count them, we can see that they are four. Can’t you see that, Peter?”
“Yes I can see that they are four.”
“So there, Peter!”
“But I want to know why they are four!”
And that’s how it was with Peter all the time. When people were talking about fish, Peter would ask: “And why can’t people live under water too?”
“Because they would suffocate!”
“And why would they suffocate?”
“Because they cannot breathe under water!”
“And why can’t they breathe under water?”
“Because they have no gills!”
Now that’s a good answer, isn’t it? Rather says it all, doesn’t it? Peter could have been content with it, don’t you think? Right here he could have stopped asking, no?
But no, he was itching, he just couldn’t stop, he had to go on asking: “And why don’t people have gills?”
Now do you think that’s in order? Do you think that’s okay? Does one have to go on asking until one gets no more answers? It annoys people. Makes them angry.
And then, consider: If Peter would have stopped asking in time, he would know now why people can’t live under water: because they have no gills! But as he asked one question too many – he still doesn’t know! So, if you want to know why things are the way they are – stop asking questions in time!
Well, that’s the story. That’s it. Did I hear anyone say: Why? Did I? Well, I can tell you why. I can show you. I have made up a list. A list of questions you had better not ask. Here comes number one on my list! Watch out, here it comes: Why – is water – wet?
Well? Why is water wet? Such a simple question. Can’t anybody tell me? Can’t anybody give me the answer? Why is water wet? Because it isn’t dry!
Aha! That’s the sort of answer you get! Well, wouldn’t I have been better off if I hadn’t even asked in the first place?
Why does time pass? Why are there men and women? Why can we get something for money? Why don’t we see with our ears and hear with our eyes? Why is the dog called dog? Why is there something and not just nothing?