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The luxury of Why

This post was written on Wednesday, January 11th, 2006 around 5 PM.
   "Why can't I just drag these columns around like I used to do?"
   A good question that a 'client' asked me while I was helping him adjust to the OpenOffice.org spreadsheet program. Good, but difficult to answer. Because the software is open source, his curiosity can be satisfied, through a long archeological expedition into the original text of the program. But in this case, the client was my future father-in-law, who uses spreadsheets to do a good deal of his cabinet shop's bookwork. He didn't want his question answered. The question he wanted me to answer was "Do I really have to cut-and-paste to move a column from one slot in the table to another?", so he could get back to the numbers and lumbers.
   Asking "why?" means you have time to think about a problem, rather than working around it. "Why" is a good question, but not always very practical. Children, at least those with families who provide for them, have more of a chance to follow their interests than the parents meeting those needs. Sometimes called the "luxury of curiosity", there's a cost involved in asking 'Why?' that must be paid. Whether that's $20,000 for a year of college, $50 a month for broadband Internet service, or $20 for a notebook, magnifying glass and cheap umbrella.
   There is a certain luxury involved, but isn't curiosity a necessity as well? The summary of a speech entitled "Can we still afford the luxury of curiosity-driven research?" says that it is, for scientific research at least. In that abstract, Dr. Wallace states that "curiosity goes hand in hand with objectivity and, as such, it is an essential element of even the most programmatically oriented research..."
   Isn't he saying that even if someone's research topic and direction is already chosen, the motivating factor should still be questions like "Why..."? Another article mentions briefly how the inquisitive study of cow warts and weird worms has led to more progress against breast cancer than the study of the cancer itself. I wonder how much this can apply to my life, which is currently and will likely continue to be devoid of research grants. The answer lies behind the fact that there is no area of life that can't be looked into further, and no work on earth that doesn't have some sort of mystery behind it. I should also note that although my 'client' above has little time or desire to learn more about the insides of his computer tools, has been able to tackle a sizable repertoire of classical guitar music and makes time for study on other topics that interest him more than bits and bytes. So don't be discouraged by this post. We are called, are we not, to follow the leading of our master's Word and trust Him to take care of the rest. That sort of faith can be nearly impossible, but its luxury is a reward we should be loath to miss.
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