“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart.
…live in the question.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
Living with the question mark has been a life long journey through such incredible terrain…a real roller coaster ride through life’s ups and downs never quite knowing what is possible…for better or for worse.
Grappling with the question mark has lead to some incredibly thrilling voyages both through my philosophical wanderings inside my head and also through exploring and investigating the world around me and beyond.
“To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science”.
– Albert Einstein
At the same time, there have also been difficulties. Scary questions which hyper-inflate into terrifying and intimidating beasts…monsters!! Once the question mark reaches such mammoth proportions, it’s very hard to force it back into its box and re-establish some kind of inner peace or equilibrium. After all, questioning leads to growth, expanding your horizons and making incredible discoveries but it can also leave you incredibly anxious, fearful and afraid of your own shadow.
Weird, isn’t it!
The reality is that nobody know what’s about to happen. What the future holds. We can do our analysis and make a best-guess assessment but anything can happen at anytime and no matter how focused we are or perhaps even because we are too focused, we could get run over by that proverbial bus. It’s all over red rover. Yes, you were planning to rob a bank today and you were going to “make it happen” but it wasn’t meant to be. When it comes to difficulties predicting the future, we need to look no further than the weather forecast. Despite all the latest scientific bells and whistles, they still get it wrong.
So what hope does a mere mortal have?
This uncertainty works both ways. Just as we can be side-swiped by bad luck, our journey can take a radically different path when we encounter the good…winning Lotto, meeting our soul mate and riding off into the sunset. You were expecting a boring day but instead you had what Dr Phil describes as “a defining moment”.
“A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.”
These questions also extend beyond the journey exploring who we are and the world around us.
While researching The Diary of Anne Frank recently, I was reminded of her intelligent, questioning spirit. She relentlessly asked why and had a real quest for unraveling and knowing about people and the world around her and what was going on in her crazy world as well. She wrote:
“Ever since I was a little girl and could barely talk, the word ‘why’ has lived and grown along with me. It’s a well-known fact that children ask questions about anything and everything, since almost everything is new to them. That is especially true of me, and not just as a child. Even when I was older, I couldn’t stop asking questions.
I have to admit that it can be annoying sometimes, but I comfort myself with the thought that “You won’t know until you ask,” though by now I’ve asked so much that they ought to have made me a professor.
When I got older, I noticed that not all questions can be asked and that many whys can never be answered. As a result, I tried to work things out for myself by mulling over my own questions. And I came to the important discovery that questions which you either can’t or shouldn’t ask in public, or questions which you can’t put into words, can easily be solved in your own head. So the word ‘why’ not only taught me to ask, but also to think. And thinking has never hurt anyone. On the contrary, it does us all a world of good.”
― Anne Frank, Anne Frank’s Tales from the Secret Annex
Why is it so?
When it comes to asking why, I always come back to a popular Cadbury Chocolate advertisement from the 80s Professor Julian Sumner Miller manages to get a boiled egg inside a glass milk bottle and then asks: Why is it so? . It was an impressible piece of science.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iM-0FBu62MA
“I don’t pretend we have all the answers. But the questions are certainly worth thinking about.”
– Arthur C. Clarke
When it comes to exploring life’s imponderables, I personally can’t go past Michael Leunig’s extensive wonderings. An Australian cartoonist, visionary, philosopher and poet, Michael Leunig would have to be the undisputed King of the Question mark. The key figure in his cartoons is Mr Curly who has wandered and wondered life’s conundrums, providing insights for millions of fellow seekers. You can visit Leunig here: http://www.leunig.com.au/ and read his story here: http://www.smh.com.au/national/leunig-its-a-curly-old-world-20141119-11p4to.html
Well, look no further than Manuel, the lovable Spanish waiter in the hit British comedy, Fawlty Towers. Manuel’s command of English is not the best, which makes for a host of misunderstandings and frustrations.While others have spent a lifetime pursuing “why”, Manuel gets stuck on “what” with his infamous catch cry: “Que?”
When it comes to the question mark, perhaps nobody has expressed it better than Manuel from Fawlty Towers with his infamous: “Que?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7mpClSPyhk
And: “I know nothing!”
The thing is that when it comes to knowing what lies ahead, perhaps Manuel is right on the money. Indeed, no matter how determined we might be to “make it happen”, most of us aren’t blessed with a crystal ball and have no idea what lies just around the corner…for better or for worse. We can take steps which improve our chances but there’s still that side swipe which will send us on an entirely different trajectory. Like it or lump it, we, too, “know nothing”!
Not unsurprisingly, prayer is a common approach to handling uncertainty. While many of these prayers could well be classed as trying to bully God into giving us the desires of our heart (very much like a nagging child), the Serenity Prayer is more ubiquitous:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference”.
However, I must admit that I’ve never been that good at spotting the difference but that’s another story!
Perhaps, however, the ultimate question remains: how do we live with the question mark and life’s inherent uncertainty without becoming a nervous wreck? There is indeed a lot of strength or even misplaced power when we believe we’re all-powerful and somehow rule the world and control each and every roll of the dice…including the weather.
This is indeed one of life’s greatest unanswered questions along with how many days each of us will be walking this planet? We just don’t know. How long is a ball of string?
“Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans”.
Inevitably, busyness usually distracts and refocuses our thoughts away from unanswerable questions redirecting our efforts onto something more tangible like cleaning the toilet.
More than once, I’ve cheered: “Thank goodness for that!”
This has been Q for Question Mark in the Blogging from A-Z April Challenge. If you are doing the challenge, please share what you have written today and how things are going? We’re now on the homeward track.