Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Asking Stupid Questions

3. Asking Stupid Questions

Throughout our lives we each have an unending variety of questions to ask of one another. Some are brilliant, some are polite, some are useful, some are perfectly routine, and some are stupid. Fear of asking a stupid question can often lead us to remain silent rather than risk embarrassment. We need to better understand what truly is a stupid question.
The most obvious category of stupid question is the one for which you already have the answer. For instance, “What color was George Washington’s white horse?” Or, “You said the wood kiln won’t be cool enough to unload for another three days, can I get my pieces out of it tomorrow for my critique?”
The second category of stupid question is the nonsense question. “How much of Mozart’s music is green?” “If Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix had had a child do you think that child would have been a good swimmer?” Or, “I’ve run out of cone ten cones for the kiln sitter, can I put two cone five cones in side-by-side and get the same result?”
A third category is the unnecessary question. “Will class attendance affect my grade?” Or, “Do my pieces have to be finish fired for my critique?”
Pause. Take a deep breath. Not too much now, we don’t want you to get dizzy. Now re-consider your question. Do you already have the answer? Is it a question for which an answer is likely to exist? Is your question useful to the moment?
Keep in mind, usually it’s silence that’s stupid. The safe operation of the studio demands that all good questions be asked and answered. “How do you brick up the kiln door?” “Here, let me show you.”
“How do you add the salt to a salt firing?”
“There are several ways. I’ve had my best results doing it like this, but you should also consider these three other factors.”
You ask the question because you need the answer. Maybe you’re asking again, or asking a second person, because you need to be certain. To work safely and effectively you’re going to need a lot of correct and timely information. Having the maturity and courage to get that information is never stupid.

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