I used to play an annoying game when I was a child. I’d ask why. I’d ask why all the time and I’d keep on asking why until the adult I was asking would give up trying to answer. I’d ask why, not for the sake of curiosity, but because I knew that at some point it would be impossible for the adult to answer why.
Back then, it may have been a subtle way to undermine authority, but at some point in my development, the persistent questioning of why we do the things we do led to a realization. When we break down our motivations far enough, we come to unanswerable questions.
We’re a bit of a mess in this sense. We act on urges, drives and motivators, and then we deal with the repercussions of the actions that those compulsions prompt us to perform. As this happens, we constantly try and fail to understand from where the unexplained pressures of those obligations come.
Then, because we’re conflicted beings – curious enough to ask why, but often too lazy to accurately answer our own question – we either end our pursuit prematurely, or we answer the unanswerable questions with fictions. The urge to have an explicable answer isn’t curiosity. True curiosity leads to the unknown. The desire to have a neat answer is stronger than that. It’s so strong in fact that it allows us to convince ourselves of fictions, and explain away questions about motivation with nonsense.
This conflict is especially difficult for writers, who feel a simultaneous urge to not only understand motivation, but also explain it to others. It’s not a gift. It’s likely more closely aligned with a social deficiency. The majority of us do little more than read aloud the subtitles that foreign film audiences already see and can read for themselves, while the worst of us peddle fictions as truth and the best of us illustrate how little we all know about anything.
On Wednesday, when Aaron Hernandez was charged with the first degree murder of Odin Lloyd, I felt the urge to write about it. I write about sports for a living, and this subject seemed like it was important to sports in a big picture, what-does-it-all-mean sort of way. There was one problem: It wasn’t.