We usually ask people questions, but there are questions we must ask ourselves in order to live fuller lives. We don’t give questions the time and attention they deserve. Staying with the question for a while, is an almost completely unknown skill. We jump to a quick answer, which, often, gives us a part-answer at the surface. We settle for the most obvious, which may not be what can guide us or open us up. We’ve also been trained to think that there is only one answer to every question. For some things this might be true.
David Whyte writes about questions that ‘have no right to go away.’ These are questions that have to do with the person we are about to become ——– how we might be more courageous, more present, more generous, more fulfilled or more dedicated. They also have something to do with timing, when we feel prompted to step over the threshold into something bigger or better.
It is often poets who gift us these questions : Mary Oliver’s ,”Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life ?” Elsewhere, she asks, “Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling that a life ?” Pablo Neruda stops us short : “Was it where they lost me that I was able to find myself ?” David Mason’s simpler question : “What is the meaning of our prayers ?”
Shel Silverstein, author of children’s books, has a playful piece, ‘Zebra Questions’. While light-hearted, at one level, it is deep and thought-provoking at another. It goes : I asked the zebra : Are you black with white stripes ? Or white with black stripes ? And the zebra asked me : Are you good with bad habits ? Or are you bad with good habits ? Are you noisy with quiet times ? O are you quiet with noisy times ? Are you happy with some sad days ? Or are you sad with some happy days ? Just giving ourselves time to dwell on these questions, and only then to respond, can open the door to the yearnings we carry within ourselves —- perhaps locked away, but disturbingly surfacing now and then. Sometimes, these questions leap out from the pages of a book, sometimes they persistently tap us on the shoulder to awaken us, and sometimes they thump us hard on the head, each time wanting to open us to seeing things in a new way.
Keep a journal for these ‘QUESTIONS THAT WON’T GO AWAY’; and when you feel a bit brave, or a bit loving towards yourself, attempting to write around JUST ONE OF THEM AT A TIME. You will be surprised and appreciative of the kind of person you want to be.
—- Marguerite Theophil