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Why I Never Ask Why
Margaret the Pug explains why she does not want to know why
By Margaret the Pug, with translation by Tom Noser
Tom asks me a lot of questions that make no sense. “Why do we exist? Why is there suffering and pain? Why are some born rich and others poor? Why are some dogs not pugs?” There is so much humans ask that makes no sense, but humans are still lovable and very useful to know, so I will answer the questions, even though I don’t ask questions like “Why do we exist,” and “Why is there pain,” because they are very silly questions that have no answers.
Life is wonderful, and life is painful. Knowing why life is wonderful or why life is painful does not make life any more wonderful or less painful. In Dog, wonderful means something I don’t understand that’s also interesting. So wonderful applies to both enjoyable things and painful things. Enjoyment and pain make me wonder. It’s wonderful to hear, it’s wonderful to taste, to be cold and get warm by a vent, to be full of energy and spend it on something interesting, to become tired and to rest, to be young and know nothing, to mature and learn tricks, to eat dinner alone and then again with the family, to see a shadow that becomes a cat when it moves, to smell food and know what it will become when it’s cooked. It’s painful to be sick, to grow old, to watch animals I love grow sick and old. These painful things are also wonderful because they make me wonder. I am happier not asking why. Why does not tell me what to do about any of them. I must understand how something is and not why it is to know what to do about it.
When I observe things, I learn how they are. Anything I observe well becomes wonderful. Observing things and thinking about things are not the same. When I observe a thing, I have no thoughts about it. I am with the thing, and together we make something new called “me-and-the-thing-I-observe.” When I think of something, I do not make something new. I remember something old. Thinking is remembering. When I think of something, I think a thought. My thought is just a thought. It is not real. It’s a memory of something, not the real thing. I can think of fried chicken, and remember the smell of fried chicken and its taste, but I can’t eat my thought. Thoughts are not real, and why is not real. Why do I eat? Because I am hungry. Why do I sleep? Because I am tired. Why do we die? Because we are alive. Why is there pain? Because we feel. On and on. Now you see why I don’t ask why. The answers to why questions have no meaning and are not real.
Opossums play dead so they won’t be eaten by creatures who don’t eat dead things. Opossums play dead to stay alive. Asking, “Why do opossums play dead?” is answered with, “To stay alive.” That answer is real. All other answers to why are just stories. Why does not tell me what needs to be done. Pain tells me what needs to be done. Pain that teaches me and gets me to do what needs to be done is good pain. Pain I can do nothing about is bad pain, and must be endured. I defeat bad pain by feeling it and enduring it. This makes me stronger than the bad pain. Tom should let his pain teach him what to do. He does not need to know why he has pain to grow from pain. He can do what his good pain tells him to do, and he can endure his bad pain, the pain he can do nothing about. That’s what I do with pain I can do nothing about; I endure it.
All animals look different but are the same in nature. We keep different company, and we have different dispositions. Some of us are strong and some weak. Some of us endure and others do not. Some prefer to sleep in a bed and some on the ground. Some like doughnuts and others tuna. (I like both, but I’m easy going.) We are all the same because we are all alive. Being alive is bigger than all the things that make us different. We all become hungry and feel better when we eat. We all become lonely when no one wants us. We’re all happy when we’re with someone who loves us. I never ask why this is so. What would be the point? Asking why is a game like ball chasing, a pastime. Some animals love to chase balls. I don’t find it interesting, and it can be dangerous if it distracts me from dangerous things like an oncoming car. I smell, I hear, I taste, I feel, and I see. These keep me safe, and they keep me happy. If I knew why I smell, hear, taste, feel, and see, nothing would be different.
I will tell you a story to show why I don’t ask why. I’ll have to show you because if you are like Tom, you never listen to what your dog says; you have to be shown to learn anything.
A lazy cat who wants to eat some mice without having to chase them decides to play a trick. (Why is the cat doing this? Because it is a cat. See? Why answers nothing.) The cat knows the mice like to steal food from the pantry at night. “I will imitate a sack of flower and hang from a high shelf in the pantry,” thinks the cat. “Then the mice will come right up to my mouth, and I will be able to eat all the mice I want, and I won’t have to run after them.” Only a cat would think like this, and it’s not important to the story, but it does show how lazy and stupid cats are. Anyway, the cat gets in the pantry and hangs from the high shelf. A little time passes, and six or seven mice come into the closet looking for food.
“Do you smell a cat in here?” asks one of the mice.
“What’s that?” says another mouse. “I was thinking about all the children I will have after eating all the fine food in this pantry, and I didn’t hear what you said.” (Why didn’t the mouse listen to his friend? Pick any answer you like; it doesn’t matter.)
By this time the mouse who smelled the cat has forgotten what he asked because he’s thinking about the bed he will build with all the wonderful cardboard he’s going to get from the boxes inside the pantry. “Did you say something?” says the mouse who first smelled the cat but then forgot about the cat when he started thinking about making a bed out of cardboard.
The mouse who is thinking about all the names for its future children does not answer because it’s wondering why the pantry smells like cat when there could never be a cat in a pantry. None of the other mice have been listening to the two mice who are talking past each other, and none of them think they should leave the pantry that smells like cat because they are wondering why mice have so many children and why mice make their houses out of cardboard and all the other ridiculous things mice ask why about. None of the mice are reacting to their senses and getting out of a pantry that has a cat in it.
The mice work their way toward the cat, asking why about all sorts of silly things, not paying any attention to being in a pantry where a cat is hiding. One old mouse hangs back from the others because he hears something breathing that does not sound like a mouse. The old mouse has been in this pantry many times, and nothing in it ever breathed before. The mouse stops and listens hard to learn what’s making the breathing sound. Then he hears his companions screaming as they’re attacked by the cat, gobbled and crunched between the cat’s pointy teeth, their little mousey tails hanging out of the cat’s cruel, greedy mouth. Cats are like this, and mice are so stupid and selfish they don’t call out to their companions, “Hey, I think I hear a cat!” Even if they did, the mice would fall back into their own thoughts and ignore the warning, since mice are always asking why about things. Anyway, a lot of mice get eaten, but the one old mouse says to the cat, “Hah! I was not fooled! I remembered that I was in a pantry, and you Mr. Cat, like to attack mice in the dark!” That’s not really what happened, but mice have very short memories, so he said what he believed was true.
What’s this all mean? When you go to get food in a dark pantry, don’t think, and don’t ask why. Just pay attention to your senses and listen for breathing. You never know when a cat is hiding in there.