I hate tough questions.
Like the other day, someone asked me:
How are you?
How do you answer a question like that?
In the past, I have reduced the state of my being to “Fine”, Busy”, “Ok” and definitely too many “Not so good”.
But I am not going to lie anymore.
How can I reduce the complexities, richness and the wonderful chaos of my so-called life to a few words?
Like right now, I am feeling disappointed, angry, grateful, tired, alive. At the same time. Plus, a couple of emotions I can’t put my finger to.
Ok, maybe I’m screwed up.
I especially hate this question when people ask in their “auto-roaming” mode. Like you know, when you walking about in the office, and you see a familiar face, and automatically, those 3 detestable words come out.
Many people don’t even stop when they ask this. Some might slow down but they don’t give you enough time to process that question and say ” I’m disappointed, angry, grateful, tired, feel alive and I feel a whole lot of emotions I don’t even know myself”.
I have a feeling many people who ask this question aren’t really interested in the answers. And those who give simple answers aren’t really listening to the question.
How are you is a question that has lost its meaning. It is a question that demands brevity, not truth. It is a question of custom, not concern. It is a question that asks too much and gives too little.
But there is hope.
My Mahjong Maniac Mother called me on Saturday and the first thing she asked me was:
Have you eaten?
It is an ancient Chinese question that has stood the test of time.
(Before another faithful reader accused me of bigotry, I must say that in exalting my own culture, I have not done this at others’ expense. I am really proud of my heritage except those dark, unfashionable days of the Chinese pigtail)
Have you eaten is a superior alternative to How are you. It is a question that goes straight to the engine of human life – the stomach. Yet, it is non-invasive, unlike the other question, which on a bad day, can reduce one to tears. It is a question suited to rapid movement since the answers are always short. It is a question that is almost, in every instance, followed by a truthful answer.
Let’s banish How are you to the higher realms of intellectual discourse. Let it be uttered over lingering sips of ulong tea, over long dinners in the presence of wine and butlers, in private libraries and even in the sanctuary of the bedroom.
But only after and never before fornication.
Have no doubts. How are you is a intimate and intense question. Give it respect, give it time and give it intellectual and spiritual commitment.
If you happen to fall short, there’s always Have you eaten?
I hope this finds you well-fed and satisfied.