Thursday, November 5, 2009

What is the most important question that can be asked?

by Richard L. Weaver II

It just never crossed my mind. Had I considered it, I would never have thought there was only one question. I would have thought there were a large number of important questions, and often the questions would have to be tied to specific subject-matter areas. For example, if you were meeting a person for the first time, you might want to ask, “What is your name?,” “Where are you from?” What are your interests?,” and questions like that. If it was on a universal scale, it might be, “What is the meaning of life?,” “Is there life beyond that on earth?,” or, “How vast is space?”

The only reason the subject crossed my mind is that a pastor used, “The Most Important Question,” as the basis for his sermon. Even though his question, “Are you ready to drink from the cup that Jesus drank?” seems to be an obvious one (or something similar) given the situation and his position, I think there is a more important one that precedes his.

Because the sermon raised the question in my mind, I decided to Google it to see what others think is the most important question, and before I offer some of the responses I received — and before I give you my choice — spend a moment right here, right now, and if there was just one question (the most important one!) what would your choice be?

At, it appears that one response to the question, “What are the most important questions about life and the universe and everything?,” seemingly came from a single male [or female] whose choices raise a chuckle: 1) How much is it? 2) Are you married? 3) Will there be an open bar?

At the website, Fine Art Views, Clint Watson raises the most important question in marketing: “What’s in it for me?,” or, as he refers to it throughout his essay, WIIFM. It may be a selfish question, but it is likely to be a practical one with substantial rewards. I suggest this question to those who find listening difficult: become a selfish listener.

At the Balanced Life Center website, Nneka, in an essay, “The Most Important Question,” identifies it as, “What do I really want?” To support the point in this brief essay, Nineka writes, “Rather than pick your life apart trying to find out what’s wrong, try a new approach. When are you happiest? What were you doing at that time? Is there a way to create a little bit of that in your life today?”

At the Helium website, the question, “What is the most important question?” appears at the top of the page, and from just a brief survey of the 99 reader responses, it appears that the question, “Why?” is the most frequent response and, usually, it’s in the form, “Why am I here?” Ian Buchanan writes, “there is no more important question than that. We all know that we are here, but how many of us have seriously asked ourselves this question, and how has asking it influenced how we view and live our lives?” Stephen Morris and others agree that the most important question “has to be 'Why are we here?’ Alberta Birkoff says the answer is “Why?, “ ”because the question demands an answer. Not just any answer! It demands an answer that is well thought out...” Without the answer to that question, some said, you live a life with no purpose.

Defenses for the choice of “Why?” continue. Bernica Tacket chooses “Why?,” and says, “To truly understand, we must know the why of any situation, event, action, or outcome. To understand the underlying motivations is to understand surface.” A.M. wrote, “[Why?] is the most important question that can ever be asked. The who, what, when, and where are all hard facts. The Why is something to be interpreted and discovered. Why does the earth spin? Why was that man killed?”

At the SAMOVAR website, “The Most Important Question in Your Life,” is the title of the essay, and the answer Jesse Jacobs suggests is, “Did I make a difference?” To defend his/her choice, Jacobs writes, “When it’s all said and done, will you consider whether your presence on this planet made one iota of difference? We believe everyone wants to know their lives made a difference.”

At Marty Park’s Squeezing the Orange website (, Park’s choice for the most important question is “How?” Park writes in defense of his choice, “How can we? How did they? How would that work? How does that help? It is a question that involves finding possibilities and also critical assessment. It creates opportunity and possibility but also questions the status quo.”

Marlyse Carroll, in her essay “The Most Important Question,” at the website Inner Peace, begins with a terrific quotation from Albert Einstein, “Einstein was once asked,” Carroll writes, “what was the most important question to ask ourselves. The story goes that he thought for a while before answering that ‘the most important question is to ask if the Universe is friendly.’” And, Carroll suggests that, “Your spontaneous answer will tell you whether you focus on pain or pleasure, and whether you trust yourself and others. In a nutshell, it will tell you how happy you are. I’ll put it to you,” Carroll continues, “that your current level of inner contentment is entirely related to the way you just answered Einstein’s question.”

I have another view, and it’s a perspective that undergirds all the choices above. My selection for the most important question is, “How much do you care?” or “How much do I care?” (to put it in the first person). The reason for this choice is that it is fundamental. It is the prime mover. None of the questions above matter when the subject (you!) don’t care. One of the reasons for obesity, lack of exercise, poor health, ignorance, mediocre (or negative) effort, and almost every personal problem people face is that people just don’t care! Even the answer to the question, “What do you really want?,” doesn’t matter if you don’t care! Of course there are exceptions. But, the question, “Why?,” isn’t even considered by many because they don’t care. “How” becomes meaningless just as Einstein’s concern, “Is the Universe friendly?” becomes a pointless question as well. I have often wondered how you touch, motivate, engage, or otherwise connect with those who truly do not care?

To care about life and living, to care about others and giving, to care about what is essential and, thus, is intrinsic to all we have been, are, or want to be must be the pivotal issue because it is indispensable to everything else. Caring is the answer to inactivity, boredom, laziness, and apathy. So, when you selected your question as “the most important one,” remember that the question that precedes yours is very likely to be, “How much do you care?”

Jennifer Jones, in an essay, “The Most Important Ten Questions to Ask Yourself,” at her website, Goodness Graciousness, suggests the following questions, “1. What am I grateful for? 2. What gifts and talents do I have to share? 3. How did I get to be so fabulous and amazing? 4. What is right with me? 5. How did I get to be so lucky/blessed? 6. What do I need to embrace or change to live as my best self? 7. How can I make a positive difference in the world? 8. Who influenced my life for good? 9. How do I envision my ultimate future? 10. Who needs my love and care?” Check out her “favorite posts” as well. She’s a terrific writer.

Karly Randolph Pittman, at her website, First Ourselves (Caring for yourself is the first step), in a brief essay entitled, “The Single Most Important Question to Ask Yourself, Every Day,” suggests that the question is, “What do I need right now?,” and she goes on to discuss our most important needs and the empowerment that comes from seeking their fulfillment. She ends by saying, “[This quest is] what makes life worth living, and what makes us all willing to get up each morning and start anew.”


Copyright November, 2009 by And Then Some Works L.L.C.

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