by Esther Veltheim
“You’re better equipped for this world than I am,” she said. “I’m always trying to change the world.”
– Tom Robbins
As small children, asking questions came naturally to us. Filled with curiosity, absorbed, exploring everything, we were never short of questions. After all, informing ourselves is as much a matter of survival as eating or drinking. The questions we ask determine how we navigate life, relationships with others and, most importantly, our relationship with our self.
In small children, asking questions shows itself to be as natural a drive as quenching thirst and satiating hunger. Now, as adults, it is easy to look back and see instances where our natural drive to question was stifled. We might not know precisely why or how this happened, but it is easy to see where we might have helped ourselves and spared ourselves a lot of grief had we only asked a clear question. Instead, we held our tongue for fear of looking silly. Or our pride stepped in as proxy for our curiosity and we asked leading questions to avoid the discomfort of truthful answers.
With retrospection, it is pretty easy to see the importance questions have in our lives. How we inform ourselves determines how we survive and even how we thrive. The types of questions we ask determine the answers we receive. In clearer words, the intent of our questions determines our experience of the answers.
If we look very carefully and are honest with ourselves, we can see which questions are underpinned by self-doubt. Naturally, when a question is formulated from a place of self-doubt the intent behind asking it will be distorted. Is it any wonder that the answers we receive back are ones we often do not want to hear? Or, that the answers we receive back are exactly the ones we want to hear, precisely because our question was contrived with exactly that intent.
Not surprisingly, questions molded from self-doubt lead us down a slippery slope that is far from fun. We will not find the answers we want, and if we do, they will be only fleetingly satisfying. Whether we orient all our focus towards solutions and answers or towards confirming the familiar, we remain missing the point. Meanwhile, self-doubt gets to hide out behind a growing stockpile of hope and denial, and we get to avoid the real question:
“Why do I feel this way?”
Fortunately, like curiosity, asking healthy questions is a natural, inborn drive. Whatever dulled our curiosity and marred our ability to ask useful, practical, self-nurturing, self-reflective questions has not dispelled our natural drive to question. On the contrary, the stronger our self-doubt becomes, so too does our drive to free ourselves from this most unnatural sensation. In this way, our existential struggle is never void of its own solution.
The key to breaking this spell is simply asking new questions, questions we have not thought of asking before.
This is exactly what we will be doing here; exploring concepts that we are all very familiar with, but we will be looking at them as if for the very first time. Questions will be our guide, and you will be surprised how easily they start coming to you.
More surprising still will be the discovery that questions are actually far more interesting than answers. In fact, the best questions give birth to even better questions, even deeper, more curious ones. And before we know it, we have stopped living on the surface of our lives. This is how the magic begins.