Taking a Q

We’ve all seen–in real life or on screen–a small child peppering a wilting parent with the question: Why? But why, Mummy? Why daddy? Why do….? Why is….?

For the most part, parents keep their cool. Some—the really attentive ones—listen carefully and try to come up with an answer that’s in some way informative or at least one that will satisfy the child and put out the fire for a while. But some children have serious stamina, which wears their parents down to defeated shrugs and sometimes a state of exasperation.

Buried somewhere in every parent’s psyche is a fear of the questions themselves. Of not being able to answer them. Of not wanting to answer them. Of being exposed as an imposter (parents are supposed to know everything). Or, finally, of being asked the sort of profound philosophical questions that children are capable of throwing into a simple conversation, like: What is heaven, mum? What do you think it’s like?

Here’s the story behind those last two questions:

On a steamy summer afternoon when they were maybe 8 or 9 years old, I took my twin sons out for a drive. We were chasing a thunderstorm, which was my idea. We were following the lightning along the lakeshore (you could get a good clear view of it from there) because they were afraid of it, and I didn’t want them to be afraid. So we hopped into the car (a very safe place to be when there’s lightning!) and storm-chased.

WOW! Look at that one!

Oh! There’s another one!

It was so exhilarating. The wind blew and the darkened sky was lit up by bolts and sheets of lightning, with very little rain. The thunder rumbled and they kept pointing at new flashes. In a very short time, their feelings of uncertainty evaporated and were replaced by joy, and a happiness of the purest, simplest kind.

And that’s when those questions came up. What is heaven, mum? What do you think it’s like?

They now hung in the air. What could I answer?

IMG_1230Maybe it was because of the wondrous sky. Maybe it was because they felt, as I did, that this was a rare moment. What I remember most is that we were connected in that instant by a feeling of transcendence. All I know is that my answer came rather easily, and I still feel that I got it right (or at least, I can live with it).

What I answered was something like: «Well, I don’t know. No one really knows until they die. But here’s what I think maybe it is. How do you feel right now? »

They answered: «Great! Happy! Really happy! »

And I said: «Do you feel like being mean? Like saying something that could hurt someone? Do you feel jealous or angry or frustrated? »

They answered: «NO! NOT AT ALL!!»

 

And I answered: «Well, I think heaven must be like that. I think that when you’re in heaven, you always feel happy like that; you feel full of love. »

My twin sons, age 7
My twin sons, age 7

And to my tremendous relief, that was enough for them, and they just smiled, and we made our way home.

I think that our questions say a lot about us. They provide a window into our

preoccupations, our fears, our passions and our interests. They’re indicators of our inquisitiveness and of the life of our mind’s imagination and appetite for input.

Asking a question is always, in part, opening yourself to another—and perhaps even leaving yourself exposed. Which is why I think that our questions say something about the trust and confidence we have in each other.

Which is my long-winded way of introducing a new category on REEF. A new place to visit I named CHRISTIAN’S Q & A.

Some people never stop asking questions. My son Christian is one of them, and he can be relentless. You see, the gears of his creative brain never stop whirring and apparently, he has freakish recall (which serves him well as an actor!) and a capacity to store almost limitless amounts of information, factoids and esoterica. He’s also a cinema, comic book and graphic novel aficionado.

And so, just for fun, just to make conversation or just to watch me squirm, he throws these questions at me, when the mood strikes him.

Sometimes he gives me a headache, but mostly, he makes me feel good because he genuinely appears interested to know my answer.

The coolest thing about Christian’s questions is that under their geek culture cover, they’re actually challenging and expansive. Sometimes, they are so much so that I flip the question back at him so that he has to answer it first, just to give myself some time to think or in the hope that his answer will spark my own imagination.

I’ll end this post with a question Christian asked me yesterday. See what you’d answer, and then come back to REEF, and leave your answer in a Comment.  I’ll post my own answers…in time (maybe I’ll wait for yours, first).

QUESTION 1: If you had the ability to teleport, how would it change your life?

Teleport = to cause to travel by an imaginary very fast form of transport that uses special technology or special mental powers

For example, the character of Nightcrawler, in the X-Men comic series.

7 thoughts on “Taking a Q

  1. Please be more specific.
    1. Am I a lone teleporter, part of a teleporting community, or can everyone teleport? You can see it makes all the difference.
    2. I’m assuming teleporting is free, and minimizes my carbon footprint, but are there health consequences to teleporting?

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    1. Hello Gail,

      GREAT questions! You’ve really entered the spirit of this.

      I know both types of teleporting, via technology or because of a physical ability, and am familiar with the conventions they usually abide by. But I still checked with Christian (my in house expert) just to make sure.

      Here are some ground rules we agree upon.

      1. Yes, teleporting is free (and yes! brilliant observation about zero carbon footprint–at least in the case of a physical gift)
      2. There are no health consequences.
      3. You are not the only teleporter in the world, but not everyone can teleport. We are still talking about a rarity, a fantastic ability or technology.
      4. As long as you are in physical contact with another person (say, a hand on their arm), they can teleport with you. I imagine, however, that a human chain might be a bit tricky and maybe some would wind up at their new destination missing bits.
      5. Christian also stipulates that YOU CAN TELEPORT ANY DISTANCE AS LONG LONG AS YOU ARE ABLE TO RECREATE THE JUMPSITE FROM MEMORY. And that makes sense. A hi-tech teleporter can’t operate unless you input a destination, and the same would go for your brain: your destination would be found in your memory banks.

      So you can only teleport to a place you’ve been before. But there are clever ways to stretch that.

      If you have any other questions, don’t be shy!

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  2. Hmmm…. a little concerned here about the cavalier response to the question of health consequences. Do we need to find a common definition? Myself, I would tend to say that ‘winding up at a new destination missing bits’ could constitute a health challenge.

    Also, can one teleport back through time, assuming the destination is firmly located in one’s memory bank?

    I think a serious consideration would be the issue of privacy. With my rare and fantastic ability I might enjoy dropping by, here and there, at any time of my choosing. But would I always be welcome? I’m sure that I would object to other teleporters pitching up, uninvited, not just at my doorstep, but right at my side. Beware of the new telemarketer!!

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  3. Hi again, Gail.

    About the health risks: teleportation is not entirely risk free, especially if you depend on technology. If it is a physical power, then there is less physical risk, I would think.

    No, you can’t time travel. You can just move around in real time. Which means that if you chose to revisit something you had seen as a child, you would have to check that wherever it was that you wanted to go was still there. (I would think that Google Street View would be a very useful safety device).

    I never thought of using teleportation to stalk people!

    But let’s not get all bogged down in details. I think you just have to go with the spirit of the thing.

    Imagine being able to instantly be by a river up north–Zap!– or on the corner of Ste-Catherine and Peel…or …

    Well? How would that change your life?

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    1. Can’t help getting all bogged down in details Michelle! That’s how I enter into a question like yours. Yes, I can imagine the freedom and joy of instant travel to anywhere. (I’m actually typing this on a beach in Montego Bay, and tomorrow, after breakfast, I will visit my sister in Scotland.) But there are so many implications to the ability to teleport! Speculation immediately goes beyond the pleasure principle. Getting out of sticky situations, or deadly situations, could be useful, lifesaving even, but mustn’t we also consider how teleporting could by used by the villain? You mention stalking, as opposed to simply visiting friends and family with ease and speed on one’s side. What about crime, and leaving the scene of a crime? Teleporting villains would require teleporting detectives.

      As Paul says, ‘téléporter c’est voyager,’ and he reports that he would go to a different car show every weekend. So the short answer to your question is that I would travel. Of course!!! I would go everywhere, see everything. How wonderful! How would THAT change my life? Would I still have time or inclination to walk or read? Wouldn’t I still find myself wherever I went? Would it be harder than ever to sit still, with the notion that sitting still might just be that much better somewhere else? Can we even begin to imagine how such a change would affect us and our world? How prescient were the imaginings of the people who envisaged cars and airplanes? All joys have their attendant sorrows. Still, if you offer me the teleporting ability, I will take it, and I will let you know how it changes my life 🙆😊😘

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  4. Oh Gail! This is all quite wonderful.

    That’s what I mean by Christian’s questions being challenging and expansive (under the geekiness).

    How teleportation by others would/could change my life is another question altogether, and your thoughts on that are disturbing…I hadn’t thought to look in that direction.

    I’ll admit I got stuck on the pleasure principle, and never gave any thought to getting out of sticking situations.

    I had thought of escape, but of a different sort.
    My answer to Christian included using my ability (I just assumed it would not be some high tech machine that would transport me) to escape very very often into nature. To transport myself out of this human-made world and into the natural world, which I am too cut off from.

    That would be one of the first changes I would make.

    But your reflection on the cost, on the shift in balance in my life, is fascinating. About joys having their attendant sorrows.
    It’s true.

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