I have been looking into this strange dialogue between Gertrude Stein and her friends. To me it makes some sense. She asked, “What is the answer?” – because to every child the answer is given. That is every child’s first experience. Nobody asks him, “What is the question?” Nobody even bothers that he has not asked it. But people go on dumping answers on the child, and he is so innocent and so trusting that he accepts those answers.
Perhaps she was remembering those first moments, when somebody had given her an answer and she had not asked the question. And since then she has carried the answer. But at the moment of death you have to leave all that you have known in life; you have to become again, a child.
But when the friends insisted, “We must know what the question is; only then can we answer,” she said, “Okay. Then tell me what the question is” – because a child has no questions. And we are in such a hurry to condition children that we never bother whether he has any question or not.
A small boy was asking his father, “Dad, tell me one thing, where did I come from?”
The father felt a little embarrassed, because now he will have to tell the whole story of sexual reproduction. But he gathered courage – because now that is what the educationalists say: children should be told; all the psychologists are in agreement that children should be told when they ask. So he tried, and he told the boy about the whole gymnastics that he had done with his mother, and that after nine months of living in her womb he was born.
The child looked strangely at the father and said, “Dad, what nonsense are you talking? My question was very simple. Johnny, my friend, says he came from New Jersey. I wanted to know where I came from. You are wasting your time and my time, and what you are telling me looks so stupid.”
We are in such a hurry to give answers to children that we never inquire deeply what their questions are. Are there any questions or not? A patient mother or a father should wait. But no, the child is born and immediately he has to be baptized as a Christian. That means you have given him all the answers that Christianity has. Or he has to be circumcised, and you have given him all the answers that Judaism has. Or he has to be initiated into Hinduism, Buddhism or Mohammedanism, and they all have their rituals. But that is the beginning of answers.
Nobody is asking the child. And it is not even time to ask, because the child cannot answer anything – he is such a new arrival. He does not know the language; he does not know anything about the world. He is not concerned about who created the world. He has no idea, “What do you mean by God?”