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in Faith, Fodder

on asking the right questions

  • September 3, 2017
  • By Happy
  • 1 Comments

There are moments that – for whatever reason – stick with us from the moment we experience them. The first time I watched Meg Ryan as Albert Einstein’s niece in IQ scrawl the words “Question Everything!!!” across a blackboard was one such moment for me.

I think I’ve been subconsciously questioning everything ever since.

A few weeks ago, I was chatting with a friend over lunch, and he observed in passing that some of his recent experiences had changed his perspective and that going forward, he wanted to be sure he was asking the right questions.

And I started to wonder – how do you know when you’re asking the right questions?

I kicked that around in my head for a week before I finally asked him – and he said that while there are a lot of ways to come at it, a pragmatic approach to that question is that if the answers to the questions are actually useful, they’re the right questions. Fair enough.

But then, how do you know if the answers are useful?

It’s been almost three years since the entire trajectory of my life took an unexpected (and at the time unwanted) turn. Most of the questions I was asking pretty much came down to “Why?” – and while perhaps that was the logical question, I’m not sure it was the right question.

Better questions might have been “what’s next?” and “what can I learn from this?” – and I do think I tried to ask them, to some extent – but I don’t believe I was in a place where I could have possibly arrived at useful answers, so maybe those weren’t the right questions in that season either.

They may be the right questions now – because the answers I can give them come with the benefit of time and objectivity – but on a very real level, the only answer to any question I was asking back then was, “I don’t know.”  Which was frustrating, in a season where I was convinced that having answers would be the key to moving on in a healthy way.

But I’m starting to believe that “I don’t know” may be one of the most useful answers any question can have.  So maybe they were the right questions all along.

Moving to Brooklyn was absolutely one of the best and most difficult things I have ever done. I’ve written a little bit about how lonely it can be to know so few people in a city where you are almost never alone – but the loneliness of this season has also provided me with a great deal of internal space. I’ve been reading – and thinking – a lot, and one of the themes that keeps surfacing is “evolution.”

Scientific evidence supports the theory that the universe is constantly expanding, and on a metaphorical level, I think that we are, too. It’s true, as Madeleine L’Engle said in A Circle of Quiet, that we are all the ages we have ever been – but we are not stuck in any of them, unless we choose to be. We grow up, we change, we become different iterations of who we were/are, on the way to becoming what we will be. We, like our societies, evolve. We come to new understandings of the way things are, as time passes and as we gain new knowledge.

Our narratives change over time, as we evolve and come to a better understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

And asking questions is how we gain knowledge.  It’s hard-wired into us. (I mean, really – spend two hours with a toddler who has recently learned to talk, and tell me it isn’t!)  We start with “why?” because we’re trying to understand the nature of things, but then we move on – to broader, more complex, and (dare I say) deeper and more relevant questions.

Some of which will have useful answers.

Some of which will not.

And some of which can only be answered – at least for a season – with a baffled sense of… “I don’t know.”

But it’s the beautiful mystery of not knowing that frees us to keep asking questions.

From what I’ve read, it seems that Judaic study of the Torah is rooted in the practice of asking questions, and I think it’s telling that so often, when someone came to Jesus with a question, his response would either be to ask them a question in return, or to tell them a story.
Truth emerges in story - and it emerges in ours. Click To Tweet

So maybe it doesn’t matter if we’re asking the right questions – at least to begin with.  Maybe the point is simply to start asking questions at all – and see where they lead us.  I don’t know.

But what I do know is that my viewpoint is shifting (again).  I feel more free than I’ve ever felt in my life to ask genuine questions about who I am and what I believe and why I believe it, and more capable of making room for the answers that surface (even if they’re not what I expected) than I’ve ever been.  There’s a saying that life isn’t about the destination; it’s about the journey – and I find I’m enjoying the journey so much more these days.  I’m grateful for this season – for new friends who think very differently than I do, and for the benefit their perspectives bring to my life; for the gift of finding a church community that really means it when they say it’s alright to bring your doubts and questions with you to the Table; and for the people in my life who truly are “friends for the journey,” willing to stick it out and sort through the questions I’m asking with me.

So what exactly are these questions I’m asking?  Well, my friends – that, as they say, is a story for another day.  More to come.

Grace and peace,
Happy

 

Image courtesy of © Depositphotos.com / Veneratio

By Happy, September 3, 2017
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1 Comment
  • Danica Allen
    September 10, 2017

    Much like your reference to the toddler, questions and answers do propel us into the next stage of our lives, a greater awareness, wisdom. Conversely, unanswered questions also make life and art so infinitely precious.

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Meet Happy

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Simple Felicity is, at its heart, a blog based on the unshakeable belief that happiness really isn't all that complicated. Sometimes finding it can be - but happiness itself is pretty simple, and it's often found in the simplest of things: good food, good books, and good company. So those are the things I write about, along with a few other things that really matter to me, including faith and feminism.

A bit about me: My name is Happy. I have an amazing talent for misplacing my keys, a deep appreciation for whomever looked at the coffee bean and thought, "Hey, I wonder what would happen if I roasted this?", and road trips to Michigan are pretty much my favorite.

Contact me anytime at simplefelicity7 (at) gmail (dot) com! I'd love to hear from you.

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