“All you Americans ask ‘why’ all the time.” Assem’s simple comment caught me by surprise.
And it taught me a lot.
I began to notice the many times I did indeed ask “why?” But, more than that, I began to notice the many times that my Kazakh friends didn’t.
“Why,” seemed not to be in their vocabulary. I first noticed this during an Eid celebration.
“What does this Eid commemorate?” one of our fellow Peace Corps volunteers had asked our hostess.
“I don’t know,” she’d replied without a blink. “All I know is we sacrifice a sheep.” And then she laughed that laugh that says, “Life is good.”
In the US, we learn about our holidays as children in school, in the church we attend, or in our home. But during the Soviet years, the Russian-led schools didn’t teach the customs of the Kazakh people, and Kazakh parents didn’t celebrate them in their homes, either.
So today, people in Kazakhstan practice customs, observe traditions, and celebrate holidays often without knowing why — or caring why. Our hostess wasn’t fazed that she didn’t know why she celebrated one of Islam’s biggest holidays. She was only glad that she now could.
What was behind my fixation on knowing? I so wanted to know.
What about you? How important is “why?”