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Looking for an answer may be a dangerous thing

There are two kinds of answers:

Complete answers and cumulative answers.

Complete answers are stand alone concepts capable of resolving entire issues all by themselves.

“How can I bake a cake using only vegan products?” is a type of question that can be satisfied by a complete answer because, although there may be many different ways of making a vegan cake, any one of them will suffice.

Cumulative answers are composed of a collection of concepts, none of which are individually effective, but when taken as a whole are capable of satisfying a wide range of inquiries, concerns, and difficulties.

“How can I cope with the death of my beloved relative?“, “How can I build a successful marriage?”, or “How can I be happy?” are questions that will require cumulative answers.

That is, every individual answer offered to these kinds of questions is guaranteed to be unsatisfying if it’s treated as the sole response.

Cumulative answers require a great deal of detective work. They involve looking in many different places in order to put together the pieces of a puzzle without always having a clear image of what the final result should look like.

Here’s today’s two cents:

The more important the question, the less likely it is that you’ll find a complete answer.

Life’s most pressing issues seem to have a propensity for being immune to a “just give me the answer already” approach to problem-solving.

Good answers are often the reward for persistently collecting, exploring, and juxtaposing new ideas even when none of them, individually, are the end-all be-all to our quest for useful knowledge.

Before you accept or reject an answer, make sure you’ve properly evaluated the question.

Looking for an answer may be a dangerous thing if the answer you’re demanding isn’t suitable to the kind of question you’re asking.

At least that’s the way I see it.


T.K. Coleman

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