The Nobel Book of Answers: Simple questions for sophisticated thinkers

Recently, I read the most amazing book, The Nobel Book of Answers. The Nobel Prize has honored the world’s great geniuses in the most important fields: physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, economics, and world peace. This book is based on a simple but profound premise—what if children could ask these creative thinkers questions that are important in their young lives? Questions like “What makes the sky blue? Why do we have to go to school? What is love?” I think the answers to simple questions from Nobel Prize winners can help guide us in our everyday interactions in the Lower School at  Colorado Academy.

I was particularly struck by the chapter in which His Holiness the Dalai Lama addresses these questions: “What is life all about? How do you teach children what life is all about? How do you teach them about love? About becoming a good person?”

Here is what he wrote:

“It all starts in your own head. You have to change your attitude, your way of thinking: to do right and avoid wrong. There is no recipe and no formula. It’s like the art of cooking. Every dish needs to be prepared in a different way and requires a special touch. For one dish, you may have to pre-cook the vegetables, then fry them, and add the spices at the end. For another dish, you might start with a solid dash of salt. When you want to make a success of a delicious meal, you always have to consider different aspects. It’s no different when dealing with people.

“The most effective method is to put yourself into the other person’s place, to imagine what he thinks and how he feels. How he suffers. The ability to put oneself into the other’s place and to think about how we would behave in that place is very useful if we want to learn how to love someone. This technique requires a great deal of courage. It takes courage to imagine how it would feel to be in the other’s skin.

“It is good when love lives in our hearts. It’s a good thing to truly wish that others be free of suffering and that there be no more aggression or hatred. Looking at people from this point of view allows me to feel that the person that I am meeting is just like I am myself.”

Within a school day, a child typically has their skills of life and love tested at least 10 times a day. For some, it may be even more. Often times, adults become so wrapped up in supporting children’s academic needs that they neglect the personal intelligences. Modeling, practicing, and coaching life skills—like kindness, compassion, curiosity, empathy, responsibility, and courage—for your child will allow them to develop these emotional skills throughout life. Ask your child the important question: “What is life all about?”

You may just be intrigued by the response.