Questions that matter
Sep 04, 2017 08:30AM
By Ben Scott
by Roger Breisch
Would you be willing to share with me why you want to live?”
This question, asked of those whose lives are so bereft of joy and connection they have considered ending them, has taught me much about life and the human journey.
A young father, through rivers of tears, will tell me he has the most beautiful daughters and cannot imagine inflicting them with the life-long ache that would come from losing the father they love. A woman, bone weary from a life of giving to others, wondering in agony why no one seems willing to give in return, will pause, look deeply inside and declare, “I still have so much left to give.” A teen, feeling worthless because of the searing pain that emanates from natural insecurities and false accusations of peers, will admit that perhaps their life is a gift as yet unopened. In those moments, I am moved by the authenticity, vulnerability and wisdom that emerge from human pain and heartache. They also emerge from a sincere and authentic question.
I have come to know the vital role of questions, and grieve the dearth of them in our everyday discourse.
Putting aside deceitful questions—whose cadence and tone imply an answer—all questions matter. Sentences that end with the ubiquitous squiggle atop a period open the future to new possibilities. Sentences ending with just a period condemn the future to limitation and constraint. Answers have a way of ending discovery and learning; captivating questions open us to unimagined possibilities.
The questions that animate our life and language change as age and circumstance evolve. Questions that matter to a child who is just becoming aware of self are different from those of an elder contemplating the end of self. Questions of a young couple newly in love are different from those of a couple whose love may about to be torn asunder by separation, divorce or death. The questions that inform the human species are certainly different today than those we considered 50 years ago, during the Middle Ages, or as we first began to paint symbols on the walls of ancient caves. Regardless of the time of our life, or the eon of the human journey, questions light the way.
The questions I most love to inhabit are those that, if true, hold the possibility of changing everything I know of the world. I am in love with questions that disrupt; those that perch on the edge of what I currently believe and threaten to nudge me into the great unknown.
These are questions that matter. They rise to the surface in my life because so many of the answers with which I grew up no longer describe the world I have come to know. They are questions of our age; questions we must face as our perceptions of the world and our role in it, are challenged in dramatic ways. How can we discover who we are and what we have to give to the world? Have we given up wisdom by our avoidance of pain, suffering and death? How might we honor our youth and our elders? Has science hidden a deeper order, and deeper wisdom, from us? Will humanity survive and if so, what might be our journey?
It seems many people have such confidence in the answers provided by our current path and myths, they have stopped questioning the most fundamental assumptions underlying them. We seem to have forgotten that one of our unique gifts as conscious beings is our ability and desire to ponder the imponderable, challenge the status quo and alter the paradigms through which we interpret the world.
Roger E. Breisch is a resident of Batavia and Speaker Provocateur