Between now and the end of Passover, I’m sharing excerpts from my book “The Four Questions Every Monitoring Engineer is Asked“. It blends wisdom and themes from Passover with common questions (and their answers) heard when you are setting up and running monitoring and observability solutions.
The four questions of the Pesach (Passover) Seder are actually one question with four observations and answers. But it’s easy to see that these observations and answers are somewhat rhetorical. The implied follow-up question to each observation is, “Why? Why are we doing these things?”
Judaism encourages questions because it recognizes that the journey to a lifetime of answers must necessarily start with a question. If an individual isn’t curious about a topic, the answers can be staring them in the face and it won’t matter.
In Yeshivah—a day-school system for Jewish children that combines secular and religious learning—the highest praise one can receive is, “Du fregst a gutte kasha!” which is Yiddish for, “You ask a good question!”
Rabbi Abraham Twersky elaborates on this value in the following story. He says that when he was young, his teacher would relish challenges to his arguments. In his broken English, the teacher would say, “You right! You 100 prozent right! Now, I show you where you wrong.”
This culture of questioning does not impact religious thinking alone. People who follow this system find that it extends to all areas of life.
Isidor Isaac Rabi won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1944. When he was asked why he wanted to become a scientist, he answered, “My mother made me a scientist without ever intending it. Every other mother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school, ‘So? Did you learn anything today?’ But not my mother. She always asked me, ‘Did you ask a good question today?’ That difference—asking good questions—made me become a scientist!”
The lesson for us, as monitoring professionals, is twofold.
First, we need to foster that same sense of curiosity, that same willingness to ask questions, even when we think the answers may be a long time in coming. We need to question our own assumptions. We need to relish the experience of asking, so that it pushes us past the comfortable inertia of believing we already have an answer.
Second, we need to find ways to invite questions from our colleagues, as well. Like the Seder, we may have to present information in a way that is shocking, noticeable, and engaging, so that people are pushed beyond their own inherent shyness (or even apathy) to ask, “What is that all about?”