living the questions

Posted on December 28, 2009


The older I get, the less I seem to know anything for sure. When I was young, it was easy to cast judgment on others, their beliefs, their actions, their lifestyles. Actually, I was a master at it. I had a great mentor, my pastor… Youth is so full of certitude and opinions. The older I get, the more I realize how much I don’t know. Isn’t the purpose of learning, of education, so that I can know things? Or is it so that I can open my mind to all there is to learn, to all there is that I don’t know? Especially when it comes to understanding something so complex as a human being; myself, my motivations and desires, my heart, my mind, my soul?

Maybe the questions really are the answers. By questioning, we are facing our fears, doubts, and pain. That means we are on the right path; we are going through it. Going through it (instead of ignoring it, avoiding it, or running from it) is the only way to learn the wisdom that fear, doubt, and pain have to teach us. Questioning keeps us open. Openness allows us to learn.

Questions come
from a heart that is seekingrainer-maria-rilke-quote-live-the-questions
from a heart that is open
from a heart that is listening
from a heart that is willing to learn.

People that have the answers may not be facing the storms in their own lives . . . may not be facing themselves . . . may not be facing reality . . . may be lost in their own bubble . . .

Having the answer allows us to turn away, convinced that all is resolved.
Having the answer makes us believe that we know.
If we know, then there is no longer a reason to learn.
Having the answer stops learning.
Having the answer puts us in a position
above others,
greater than others,
better than others,
wiser than others,
more intelligent than others.

How is it that we are in a position to tell another’s truth to them?
How is it that we, not God, become the ones to reveal purpose and meaning for another? Quite absurd, really.

the puniness of the human mind,
the sliver of human knowledge,
the tiny grains of wisdom,
. . . our answers are dust in the wind.

the vastness of the universe,Rilke-Questions
the billions of galaxies,
the infinity of God,
the eternity of time,
the complexity of our puny minds,
. . . we think we know?
We think we have the answers?
We have become quick to speak and slow to listen (i.e. slow to learn);
. . . and we think we know?

In a life of mystery where we can’t see the future,
we can run and hide,
turn away,
ignore and deny, or . . .

face and befriend the darkness . . . the uncertainty . . . the questions.

This is not easy though. Certainty is much more comfortable. Comfort is hard to let go of. The idols of Certainty and Comfort are powerful gods. It is easier to run and hide, to turn away, to ignore and deny . . .

Questions acknowledge the darkness; a sort of wrestling with God, like the story of Jacob in the Bible. They acknowledge the reality of the obscurity of the truth . . . the mystery of God. “For now we see through a glass, darkly” (1 Cor. 13: 12)

Living the questions is the best answer we get.

Faith is not getting answers; it is asking and living the questions.
Not less painful, but more authentic.
Not based on the opinions in our minds,
But on the assurance in our hearts through faith, hope, and love.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1).

“By faith Abraham, . . . went even though he did not know where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8)

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers. . . . Live the questions now.” (Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet)

There’s roads and there’s roads
And they call, can’t you hear it?
Roads of the earth
And roads of the spirit
The best roads of all
Are the ones that aren’t certain
One of those is where you’ll find me
Till they drop the big curtain
(Bruce Cockburn, Child of the Wind)