Curiosity seems to be my middle name. I like searching for answers to questions, especially big ones. I like to find the names of things. I like to understand. Always that’s been true of me.
So when I went back to graduate school in my 40’s, I was full of questions. Over and over I would ask my favorite mentor/professor my current “big question.”
He would never answer them.
I knew he had at least an opinion. He was, after all, a professional philosopher. They think about everything! And I’d read some of his writings, so I knew it wasn’t that my questions were out of his realm of expertise. So I was getting frustrated with him and his refusal to answer, to help me understand. I was convinced it was deliberate.
Finally one day, I asked him, “Why won’t you answer my questions?”
There was a long silent moment, his eyes on mine. Then he said, “Have you ever noticed what happens inside you when you get an answer?”
I was stunned. He was inviting me to observe an inner place I’d never considered before. I’m not going to tell you what I found there, because I’m sure you can find the same awareness if you make your own observations inside. It changed the way I went about—well, many things.
He taught me something else about questions, equally enriching. He said that questions, especially the big ones, carry their own answers if the question is framed fully. Often he would ask me, “Is that what you most truly want to know?” And I’d have to step into myself to find out. It seldom was. Always there seemed to be deeper layers. When I followed them “down,” as far as I could, I discovered a change in the question and also a change in the quality of my experience. Much for the better, I must add.
I don’t always remember to challenge my own questions in this way. I still tend to think there must be answers, even though I know better now. Yet, I have grown from trying to practice these two things. You might enjoy a similar exploration.
If you find something interesting, let me hear from you!