Illustration of me

Why indeed

Sep 13 2021

Earlier today, @sfslim sent out the following tweet:

Cannot express how grateful I am to have friends who, when presented with a new project, ignore “why?” and immediately dive into “how?”.

The nature of twitter encourages a certain level of me-too-ism. The medium actively encourages agreement with quick and easy retweets. Also, it’s brevity makes back and forth debate difficult—if not completely discouraged. As a result, it was unsurprising that SFSlim’s post was responded to by a number of people in a typical “Hear! Hear!” sort of way. The first to respond was @ctpctp‘s who’s response focused on this as a marker for in/out group traits:

That’s been a dividing line I’ve used for a long time now. I’m ever wary of the ones who ask “why would you do that?”

What was interesting about these responses was the fact that SFSlim’s quip could be interpreted in a couple ways:

  1. I am grateful that I have friends who understand the “why?” of my ideas implicitly.
  2. I am grateful that I have friends who don’t care about the answer to the question “why?”

Also interesting was that most others latched on to the second interpretation. There was @yerdua‘s response:

I wonder how it is that we realized “why?” is often a useless and nihilistic question. “How?” leads to much more action.

And @nelz9999‘s brief reply which was posed as a question to those who ask “why?”:

“Why would you ask that question?”

And then another (who will go nameless due to their account being locked) channeling a slightly more articulate yoda:

There is no “why,” there is only “yay!” Yay yay! “Why” acts like “yay” should be rationed, but we know the spring is eternal. YAY

And from another:

Similar to an old t-shirt slogan “If I had to explain it, you wouldn’t understand”

Call me an old school art fag but I think the “why?” is important. To not care about the “why?” is to not care about meaning which—to directly disagree with @yerdua—is the definition of nihilism. Sometimes the answer to “why?” is something simple as “because it’s fun! yay!” or “because it makes me laugh” or “because it’s beautiful” or “because I wanted to challenge myself.”

I certainly had my hand in a number of projects with simple answers to the question of “why?” that I’ve enjoyed and loved. However, I have a deeper connection with the projects that have complicated answers; often these answers involve both the creator and the audience. Sometimes these answers came during the initial brainstorming and other times they were summoned during observation of the resultant project as it happened. Whether developed pre- or post-hoc, it is this meaning which, to me, makes a project Art with a capital A.

I know that SFSlim and several others grok what I’m saying here and most who responded were only caught up in the me-too-ism of twitter. In fact, many of these same people have created art projects with real depth and with clear answers to the question “why?” However, I also must ask why are these same individuals being disdainful the question “why?” I mean what is wrong about being able to articulate one’s reason for doing something? And more importantly do we only care about connecting with like-minded individuals or do we have something to say to outsiders who are brave enough to step forward and ask “why?”

So to all of you who responded to SFSlim, the next time you have a project that you are passionate about, I challenge you to come up with an answer to “why?”

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