What’s the question? That’s the question.

by Aug 11, 2016

I read a post on Facebook the other day.  Somebody posed the question “Where do we come from?” I’ve included the post, as a reference to the sorts of Facebook replies I find myself writing, but also as the trigger for this article. When I write, like most of us, I write from my own knowledge, from school, of course, but more from books and articles written by people who have condensed often their life’s work and experiences for us to absorb.

Note: (I was raised ostensibly as Christian who struggled until I was 34 with why people in authority worldwide “believed” and I didn’t . It is one of those questions that I find naive and vaguely tiresome from an apparently educated person in their late 30’s in the 21st century. I know I wasted far too much time in the library (pre-internet) reading the bible; Qur’an; other religious texts or books about them; speaking to priests; reading about UFOs and supernatural  happenings etc.,  before I found the more evidence-based scientific material which simply confirmed my atheism: with evidence! Thus my answer is given with that background. If people who find comfort in faith rather than evidence want to skip to the paragraphs after my Facebook answer, please do. The point of the article is really there. 🙂

Facebook post: “Where do we come from?”

My answer: 

We don’t “come” from anywhere. The sperm mates with the egg and replicates. If successful, and often it’s not, then a rather elegant and simple process of DNA replication occurs and a human child is born with no thoughts and no worries; just instincts from millions of years of evolution.

At birth, it cries for comfort and food and, from that time, it absorbs information from its surroundings to learn how to survive the world it was born into.

If it is born with loving, nurturing, rational thinking and unconditional parents, then it has a chance of growing into a confident, intelligent, human being with knowledge and understanding of it’s origins, instincts, and, importantly, an understanding of both such that they can be moderated to live in harmony with those around it.

If born with parents who have no knowledge and understanding of their origins, instincts, and, importantly, an understanding of both such that they can be moderated to live in harmony with those around them, then the child will learn that perhaps love is conditional: conditional on their parents mood; money; chores; the submission to the will of a god or gods; compliance with culture; sexual preference, or many other aspects of control.

The universe was happily not caring about us for billions of years, and will continue not caring about us for the duration of our all too brief life, and for billions of years after our death. So, being born is a lottery. We are the lucky ones, because of all the sperm and eggs, ours made it together and millions didn’t. There is no purpose to life other than to stay alive and enjoy our brief moment in the billions of years of what we perceive as time.

Death is certain. That there is nothing after is certain. Free of worry about life after death, for there is no evidence to suggest there is, I am free to enjoy life and all that this entails. I won the lottery of being born, and the bigger prize of being born into a country and family that meant I was fed, looked after, and allowed to grow as a person. Many others alive today do not have that luxury. I try to be a good person and live in harmony with the world around me. I enjoy travelling this vast planet and meeting people. I lay back and look at the stars and know I am made of stardust and that I will return to dust at the end. In the meantime, I don’t worry about where I’m from, because It’s literally nothing to be concerned about. I spend my time in awe at the universe and the discoveries yet to come, and hope that mankind can grow up in peace and become better custodians of each other and this planet; not just for me, but so that future lottery winners can spread out and explore this vast universe and enjoy sights and experiences that I can only imagine in my lifetime.

It’s not where you’re from, it’s where you’re going that matters.


A friend commented “You were inspired this morning David !” I was, but not just inspired to write. I was inspired by other great thinkers and writers, scientists and discoverers, and intellectual  giants through the ages that often dedicated their lives to thinking about these questions and searching for answers. Reading their works gave me their knowledge and the inspiration to rethink my life and its direction.

In the 21st century, we are fortunate to have access to more information in a myriad of ways than the whole human race in the previous centuries; we can absorb the experiences and successes, as well as failures, of those before us. They did the hard work and shared their secrets; we don’t have to.

We shouldn’t waste time seeking answers we already have. We should develop new questions. Smart questions result in better answers. (My question was: ‘What evidence is there for what these people are proposing as fact?’ When I asked that question, the problem resolved itself rather quickly.  Before asking this, I just naively accepted the content of books because they were by “popular” authors, with the faulty logic “So many people can’t be wrong!” It was a smart question.) 

“It’s not where you’re from, it’s where you’re going that matters.” To get there, we need to stop, take stock, and start asking questions; to have the humility to realise we may not (yet) have all the answers. This is also a sticking point: do we have the capacity to acknowledge our ignorance? If we’re not sure, perhaps we should listen to those around us. Our work appraisals that we took offense to; is there some truth in these? If it’s a common thread over many appraisals from different managers, then maybe yes!

One of the hardest things to do in this “I’m offended” and “safe space” culture, is to find someone who will tell you straight. If you can find such a person, and they are around, ask for their feedback with an open mind! I would rather someone came directly to me and said “I think you’re [insert problem here]”. My first reaction, putting pride aside, would be to ask “Why do you think that”? Another good question. If I am acting in a way that others find irritating, I want to know how this perception of me manifested itself. Perhaps it’s a misunderstanding, over-sensitivity, or maybe I am wrong.

For your career: What do you want to achieve? Why? What knowledge or skills do you need, and what gaps do you have? Who has demonstrated real knowledge and/or skills in those areas? Do you know them, or can you read their work? etc. etc.

For life: What virtues do you admire? What principles do you hold dear? What are your goals? Are they realistic? What would you like to change and, importantly, why? Is it for you, or someone else? etc. etc.

We should also, if we want to succeed, not waste time on questions that have been answered unless, of course, we have evidence that those answers might be wrong: new challenges!

So, what’s the question? Whatever it is, you can find either answers, or inspiration that could lead you to them. Just ask smart questions.

Good luck! (Luck generally being preparation meeting opportunity.)


PS. My current questions are “How can I get better at time management, and why am I so poor at it?”