Questions, Questions

Image by Coral Southwell

My book club recently read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, a novel by Jamie Ford. As a child in World War II Seattle, the main character is forced to wear a button declaring “I’m Chinese,” to differentiate himself from the enemy Japanese.

One of our members asked, “If you had to wear a button, what would it say?” What word or two would define who you are?

We answered around the table. The first person said “Irish,” the second “Dutch.” Things took a more philosophical turn when people answered “optimism” and “I’m here now.”

I pondered how to identify myself: “I’m an American.” “I’m a Texan.” That draws too many borders between me and others. “I’m a human being.” Too limiting. I declared: “I’m a spiritual being.” I changed my answer, though. “My button has a question mark.”

Questions have defined my life. As a curious child, I badgered my parents, asking about everything. As a journalist, I’ve spent my adult life asking questions of strangers, sometimes questions I have no business learning the answers to, personal information that nobody should reveal except to their spouse. You’d be surprised how many people don’t realize they aren’t required to answer.

All along, I’ve had more questions than answers about the nature of existence. Of the journalistic five W’s and the H (who, what, when, where, why and how), I’ve usually thought “why” was the most interesting.

And now, I’m curious. What would your button say?

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9 Responses to Questions, Questions

  1. Most excellent, Carol. Love reading your “Ramblings”. I can particularly relate to your blog relating to being denied Communion. Though I was never denied, but questioned the religion, which we were told never to do. My first communion was very memorable, to say the least. What sins could a 6 or 7 year old have racked up without encouragement? I think our Bible teaches more about how NOT to be than it teaches how to be. I’ve been a “Recovering Catholic” for the past 44 years, and I continue to question everything.

    I too, love writing, and have a blog ( ).

  2. Kandy Aydelotte says:

    I’m sure mine would simply say “I am me!”

  3. GypsyCat says:

    “Citizen of the World”

  4. Joe kennedy says:

    Mine would say, “Slow Down,” and I would pin it upside down at the level of my navel, so I’d need only lower my gaze to read it and heed it.

  5. Joybird says:

    hmmm…the first thing that came to mind surpised me and my instinct was to reject it, but it’s still what sticks (besides I was always taught as an actor to go with your first instincts). My button reads “I am loved.”

  6. hmmm…. i like the question mark idea. i think mine would say “believer.” not just in God, but in love, in beauty, in art…

  7. Chelo says:

    I love the question mark but since I hate to copy I guess I’ll go with an exclamation mark!

  8. Rick Barrett says:

    OK, I was just reading your blog to get a feeling about your writing… but this particular blog really poses an interesting question. And, while I think the question mark idea is cute, I felt that it was may be viewed as a little insincere and confusing, almost flippant (ignore all the bad connotations and try to understand the concern.) But, It did get me to think about the question. How can anything as complex as a person be captured in a couple of words or a punctuation mark? But, I think I have found the words for my button “Just Ask.” The question mark is all about opening the conversation about what it means… why not just go to the message?

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