Asking the Right Questions
I ask the questions aroused by my heart’s longing in response to the perplexing, shape-shifting, death-attracting, death-transcending human condition.
The meaning of life can’t be understood without first looking at the self and its interaction with the world. In effect, this amounts to examining the inner workings of the soul of the universe. ~Wynton Marsalis
Sometimes I go for months, even years, in a fallow period, in which I’m pondering everything. Who am I, why am I, what way of being will allow me to feel that I am holding my life in two hands, lightly and firmly, without squeezing? Pondering is almost too active a word for sitting around waiting for the fog to lift and the path to appear. Yet I am not that patient and trusting, so I ponder.
The trick is to figure out the right questions to ask the soul of the universe. Asking the right questions is more feasible than coming up with answers. As Rilke says,
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 now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
What Rilke means (IMHO) is that some distant day you will die into the answer. Our lives are a question that is answered by death. For it is only in death that the arc of the story may be seen. I’m not saying that we can actually understand anyone’s life even in death, but once a person dies they are no longer going to surprise us by joining the circus or becoming a transgendered Republican. And for all I know, death is only the period at the end of the prologue — maybe it’s just the dedication. This life is dedicated to ____________________?
I ask the questions aroused by my heart’s longing in response to the perplexing, shape-shifting, death-attracting, death-transcending human condition. Longing for what? Hard to say. How’s this: longing for access to the love that continuously breaches and expands my fear-imposed limits, making room for greater receptivity to that love in a mobius strip of never-ending call and response.
The big unanswerable questions I mentioned above are the base of the question pyramid, and as the questions become more specific and now-based the pyramid narrows. The pointy end result I hope for are action-step questions — what do I need to do today? What do I need to do next? What do I need to do RIGHT NOW? — based on a soft-focus linkage between news from the soul of the universe and what I think I want to make, or make happen.
Because if what I do today is not informed by a genuine response to my existence then my action steps will most likely be one foot going in a circle with the other one nailed to the floor by whatever takes the place of Good Orderly Direction. Our nature abhors a vacuum. It’s either G.O.D. or something else, and something else is more likely to be fear-driven and less likely to lead me towards my heart’s longing.
My question is three questions that need to be asked at the same time to invite Good Orderly Direction.
- What do I want?
- What is my responsibility to life?
- What is my responsibility to this moment?
When those lens come together, however imperfectly, I feel earthy and alive. I feel the flow of a good, orderly direction (the soul of the universe?) moving within me.
I want to be able to accept the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune with enough trust and gratitude that I can spend the hours/days of my life on work worth doing — work that is right for me, without anxiety or despair. I want to have the courage and faith to begin again each moment for the rest of my life.