Do not be afraid to question.

question

What questions do we frame for ourselves at the end of the day? What are the questions that have caused us to soul-search and perhaps take a new path? What questions have forced you to look at something a different way?

Sometimes the questions are more important than the answers. There are some that resonate so deeply with us, we may spend a lifetime trying to answer them. In her piece about the beauty of these profound questions, Karen Horneffer-Ginter identifies some that have been meaningful to her:

When used properly, questions have the potential to connect us to the world of another. A heartfelt “How are you?” or “How was your day?” can become the bridge that keeps us in relationship to the lives of those we love. Sometimes, too, questions create a bridge within ourselves, allowing us to hear what’s going on at a deeper level. We know when we’ve encountered a question that has this potential because it stays with us — maybe for the day, maybe for our whole lives. It taps us on the shoulder to wake us up, or it wiggles its way in more deeply, opening us up to seeing things in a new way.

I still recall first encountering Judith Duerk’s chorus of questions about how my life might have been different if there had been a sacred circle to step into. Mary Oliver asking me about my plans for this one wild and precious life, Oriah Mountain Dreamer wanting to know what I ache for and if I dare to dream of meeting my heart’s longing, and Angeles Arrien reminding me of the questions asked in some indigenous cultures: When did you stop singing? When did you stop dancing? I think of my friend Ming,asking me at lunch one day if I thought writing was my fullest and truest expression. All these questions have remained close companions across the years.

And just the framing of the question can be significant, as she suggests. Consider the difference between ‘What do I have to do today?’ and ‘What do I get to do today?’ That simple shift helps us move from feeling burdened to being grateful for all the opportunities presented by the day.

What are the questions that have been your close companions? What do you get to do today to help answer them?

What’s your question?

soulchildren

Children have a way of cutting through the fake and getting to the real. They look around themselves and wonder why things are the way they are. Sometimes the questions they ask are tamped down, leading those kids to spend their adult lives trying to answer them:

Why can’t boys cry?

Why do we have to always pretend to be happy? (Or, to put it another way, What’s wrong with having lots of different emotions?)

Why can’t I play with those children?

Why are you lying?

Why must I accept things that seem wrong?

In this brilliant essay by Courtney E. Martin, she asks ‘What was your first question?’and taps into the power that comes from looking at the world with innocent eyes, OUR own innocent eyes. Dorothy Day, for instance, witnessed an outpouring of love and charity after the San Francisco earthquake in 1906 and wondered, why don’t people care for each other like that all the time. She went on to make that her life’s work in the Catholic Worker Movement. Susan Cain showed up at camp with books and wondered what’s wrong with wanting to be quiet. She went on to write the book Quiet about society’s preference for the extroverted. Oprah Winfrey, sexually abused as a child, went on to constantly unveil the light and dark of human existence asking, “What’s the cathartic story here?”

That child question is powerful. Things we may have gotten used to over time or now just accept as the way things are weren’t so simple to the little child in you who wondered why.

Martin says,

In some ways, these questions are so powerful because they are asked from such a pure place. Children are famously intuitive about underlying dynamics that adults assume they couldn’t possibly understand. They focus in on unspoken truths like homing pigeons and then have the audacity to speak them; the world hasn’t yet acculturated them to fearing the sound of a silence breaking. They are not, in the best of all possible ways, team players. They are inexhaustible witnesses and truth seekers.

Which is what we all are, underneath the home training and the wear and tear of decades of living on this brutal planet. Peel back the layers and we are still the little people we once were, looking around at the adults and wondering what the heck is going on. We are curious and outraged and perhaps sometimes naively sure that there is a better way.

So what was your first question? What is the question you weren’t allowed to ask as a kid? Are you still asking that question? Is there some way, now that you are an adult, that you can answer it, or at least expose it to the light of day?