Thursday, April 23, 2009


We talk about "hard questions" and "easy questions" blithely. The easy questions have simple answers, or at any rate, easily accessed answers; they are part of a known framework of ideas and approaches; we know how to deal with "What's the derivative of sin(x)?" and "How do you drive from here to there?" and "What's your name?" The hard questions are swathed in mystery, floating in a sea of unknowns, unquantifiables, unfathomables; we don't have the vocabulary to express their answers, even if we do have some vague ideas about what's relevant. "Who am I?" "What is the meaning of life?" "How should we respond to crises like AIDS in Africa or a tsunami in Asia, or a death in the family or a friend's break-up?" The hard questions ask us to actually look at the lenses that we look at life through. Sometimes it turns out we need a new prescription. Those are the answers we don't like.

So: we answer the easy questions, ponder the hard ones (when we can bring ourselves to face them).

But there are also questions that we don't even think of asking. If we knew those questions, and sought their answers, maybe everything else would fall into place. But the lenses we see through don't show us the things we need to ask about. We see them blurred, so indistinct as to be unrecognizeable as objects. We see them so far away they don't seem real. We see them without the detail that would distinguish them from the ground or the wall or the grass. They are invisible. If I am blind to them, they might as well not be there--until, walking along, going my own way, I trip over one of them. Having fallen and lost my glasses, I fumble on hands and knees and examine the world through uncorrected eyes, which blur everything equally.

But if I had only been picking my feet up a little more, I would never have run into that question. How am I supposed to find and answer the questions that I don't even think to ask?

Some questions are easy for me to ask, even when I can't find the answers. I am always asking,
What am I supposed to do?
What is right?
Is this wise?
Will this actually work?
What is prudent?
Why am I doing this?
Those are all so impersonal, you see. Principles, rules, patterns, logic: they are so reliable. If I can just analyze the situation right, it will all make sense, and I will fix it, and live happily ever after.

Here are some questions I don't ask, though.
Will this make me happy?
Is this a loving thing to do?
Feelings are so unreliable. How can I analyze them? How can I control them? Really, I can't. I need to accept that they are there, though, and that it's okay that I don't control everything...

Here's another question I don't ask:
What is God's will for me?
Maybe I'm part of a story that I am not the author of. Maybe I don't have to figure out every ending and plot twist. Maybe I need to let go and wait to be written.

No comments: