There are no stupid questions.

There are no stupid questions; only stupid answers.

To be a good teacher – and not just a successful educator – it is important to remember that the idea of being stupid (a horrible thing to think of someone, or to address someone as) could only be reserved for someone who lacks intelligence. And you know the only way to gain more knowledge, and to be more intellectual as person? Asking, questions.

Fundamentally, the sentence “They were asking stupid questions” or “that was a stupid question” is flawed – you’ll most likely either have said this in a moment of fury, or have overheard a disgruntled friend or colleague complaining. While it’s easy to understand why someone might say this, as they’re just frustrated, its equally not a helpful phrase for anyone.

Let’s suppose that you have never learned how to wash your clothes. You are a teenager, and have just moved out for the first time in your life. There is no washing machine in your apartment, so you head to the nearest laundromat with a couple of bags of dirty clothes, that you’ve no doubt put off washing. Nervous, you stumble your way towards a stranger, and in a moment of courage, you tap them on the shoulder and explain to them your predicament. “I’ve just never learned how to wash my clothes” You’ll say, “So… How DO you wash your clothes? Is there a system for putting it in the washing machine, or do you put anything in with it or… ?”

They laugh in your face. They sputter their words, and they repeat it, “You don’t know how to wash your clothes!? Are you stupid!?” They continue their merriment, maybe chuckle to themselves or turn to a friend. And you sit there wondering… “Am I stupid?”

What’s happened in that scenario, and in every other scenario where a variant of this has happened, is that someone asked for help to improve their own understanding, and was made to feel small in return. As though because they did not know something, that they know nothing. Which, ironically, is a stupid thing for someone to think. By acting that way, or by saying these things, you’re only conditioning someone not to ask questions, because when they do, they’re reprimanded. So they may stop asking questions. And without questions they don’t know answers. Now you’re hurtful comments have sustenance to them, but only because of what you did. And by doing that, you are far more stupid, and worst yet ignorant, than they could ever be.

You may not consider yourself a stupid person, and yet – do you know anything about botany? Or rocket science? Or fishing? Maybe even geology, sociology, psychology, phrenology? If you are not an expert in all these fields, it would be expected that at some point if you wanted to know more about the subject you would have to ask a question, no? So, does this make you stupid?

Fundamentally, we are all uneducated in some aspects of life. To call someone stupid, or make them feel small in any way, because you excel in an area they do not; is arrogant. It’s unkind, it’s unfair, and you are objectively helping to numb society to the pursuit of intelligence.

Curiosity IS intelligence. To wonder what lies beyond. To wonder about that which you do not know, and pursue it relentlessly. Do not stifle someone, and trip them up at the first hurdle of understanding. You are hurting someone’s potential more than you know.

Next time someone asks a question you feel they should know; that you feel is a stupid question – be patient. Take your time to think of the appropriate answer. For it is you who is on the ropes. Because there are no stupid questions; only stupid answers.

Stochastic

adjective: stochastic
  1. having a random probability distribution or pattern that may be analysed statistically but may not be predicted precisely.

What this effectively means, is that while we can retroactively analyse that 70% of people who suffered from X succumbed to Y; we cannot say guarantee that 70% of people who suffer from X will succumb to Y.

This is why, mathematically, you should not let something with a small chance of success stop you just because of its likelihood to succeed.

“If something is important enough you should always do it. Even if the expected outcome; is failure.”

It scientifically, succinctly, with supporting evidence, suggests how important it is not to give up on something. How odds are important, only to the mass – not to the individual.

Equally, it humbles the self.

By the same logic, that which is overwhelming likely to work in your favour; may not. Not because you’re bad, or because you made a foolish decision – but because even if something has a 99.9% probability of happening, it still by definition requires 0.1% of people for it not to happen to, or for. And when it is you who finds themselves in the latter percentile, you will be acutely aware that percentage of probability offered you no benefits. You were tarred, by the fact that statistics mean nothing to the individual.

No matter how good a decision you make, or how bad a decision you make, it can go the other way. No because it was the right or wrong thing to do, but because an immeasurable number of other factors had an effect on that decision, which you could not possibly measure or account for. Differences that on their own are negligible, but together if they hit that sweet spot, it can just work out for you, or not.

It’s all chance.

The chance that you’ll fall madly in love. The chance you’ll get your dream job. The chance you’ll be hit by a car tomorrow morning, or that the world will be obliterated by some passing celestial body. The trivial decisions, and the grand. Use chance to share a little kindness, and compassion in a world that appears to grow more grey by the day. Be that one light, turning for all to see, in weathering storm.

So when you see someone on the street, shivering in the cold of the winter, or with chattering teeth from the damp of their sleeping bag that covers them on the ground – be kind. They could have made every possible good decision on the planet, and still been that 0.1% whom it did not work out for. In return, be the 0.1% who stops. Who shows a little compassion, care, and much needed unconditional love.

If you think you are affected by the anxiety of this world, if you fear the next day or if you cry when no one is around, imagine how they must feel. Heartbroken to not have the one they love have their arms around them, and the warmth that comes with it. To be affected by mental illness that comes with the trauma of living on unforgiving streets. To feel unwanted.

You, no matter how clever, how forward thinking, how prepared, or how entitled you believe yourself to be – are not so far separated from the man on the streets. Do not think yourself more important.

You are never too important, to not be kind.

These words may not hit you – they may not break your heart as intended. But if you fall into the 0.1% whom it does hit, I hope you fight with yourself in the night tonight, and decide to do something better. Stochastically, some of you should. But I hope more of you do.

I’ll have to leave it up to chance.

 

Shorts: Sixty Minutes

No matter what you’re doing in your life at the minute, no matter how busy your day appears to be, or how much furrows your brow each day – take sixty guilt free minutes; for yourself.

You, are as important as anything else on your plate at the minute. To handle all the things you consider important, you must first maintain that which allows any of it to be dealt with. Or even thought about and decisions considered.

Don’t feed the negativity, and the burden of the world. By feeding it, it only grows stronger, more confident, and more ferocious. It will visit more often, Pavlovian. Instead, feed creativity. Intelligence. Feed passion, love, and kindness. Feed selflessness, motivation, and self improvement. If nothing else, feed relaxation.

You deserve a warm bath. A hot chocolate. Your feet resting up against the table, with something wrapped around your body to keep your heat. You deserve your favourite song playing over the hot of a candle at night.

You deserve kind words from friends and loved ones. You deserve hobby which drives you, regardless of what end becomes of it or its futility.

It’s very easy to get caught up in it all; to wholeheartedly believe you should receive the full weight of burden that taxes you every day, and yet require no rejuvenation. And while that sounds convenient, and very noble; It isn’t. It isn’t brave to struggle, for the sake of it, to endure hardship without reward. It’s just sadism. Or masochism depending on your inclination.

It’s mental flagellation –  and your mind deserves better than that, because it allows everything you are, and how beautifully unique you are, to even take place and be perceived. Even if you get mad with yourself, disappointed, or even just a little disillusioned, remember you are absolutely astonishing.

Talk to a friend, or even better someone who will listen. They can remind you of that fact. They can remind you that life has been continuing outside of all that hinders you from sleep at night, and make larger objects in the mirror appear smaller than you might have thought. They can remind you that life will be okay, and whatever obstacles you considered large, are now long forgotten. So you can relax knowing that whatever stresses you out now, too will pass. In fact, you can take that as the one certainty in a world of anxiety. It will pass.

There is no once else like you, for every nuance of yourself. For small details you do not even notice in yourself, but that a poet would spot in a heartbeat, and write a sonnet without your knowing.

Relax. Be you.

Take sixty minutes. And between us, we’ll call it maintenance.