I've been thinking lately about the rarity of the question "why." My friend and I were talking about religion the other day and he mentioned the frustration that, as an atheist, he is supposed to be respectful of people's beliefs, that it is considered bad manners to question someone religious as to why they believe the things that they do. This idea has extended somewhat in my thinking- why don't we ask why more often? Why seems like a question that invites vulnerability. If I ask you why you believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, or why you don't return my phone calls, or why you believe that Muslims shouldn't be allowed to build a community center in downtown NYC, the likelihood is that I am asking because I disagree with your position or your actions.
I get the whole "vulnerability" aspect of questioning someone's actions or opinions, but it seems like we could get to know one another so much better if we asked why about seemingly unimportant things too- why do you like that type of coffee? Why did you buy this truck? Why do you think you like Brandy Carlile? And then the importance of giving thoughtful answers. Communication focusing on actual connections- "why" indicates an interest in one's inner workings. "Why" means that I care about you enough to be interested in your reasoning, your processes, your background, your history. Being brave enough to answer "why's" means that you are able to act with integrity- to question your own thoughts and beliefs and see if there's something solid underneath the actions and the impulses and the emotions.