We are a curious species. We want to know how everything works. We want to know how far the Universe stretches. We want to know what the future holds for ourselves and for those we love - and for those we don’t. We want to know if there really is a God(s) and what He/She/It/They want of us. We want to know when we are going to die and what happens next.
So many questions.
Mankind has made many advancements in the fields of science, medicine, and technology, as well as developments in more personal areas, such as open-mindedness towards, and tolerance for, one another. We no longer blame naturally-occurring events on the wrath of God. We don’t burn witches. We have a vast array of knowledge about physical and mental health. We are more open to the concept of peaceful coexistence, and we do so more frequently and more successfully than ever before. I’m writing this on something that was barely a dream as little as 50 years ago, and you will read it via a system that was barely functioning as little as 25 years ago.
We have made great strides, solved many riddles, and settled many differences. In many cases, our lives have been made easier and fuller as a result of the efforts made by curious people who sought to improve situations or circumstances that were deemed to be intolerable or merely unappealing. Without a doubt, curiosity and discontentment have been monumental driving forces in the evolution of mankind. We have amassed an inconceivable store of knowledge, and we maintain the ability to gain almost instant access to most of it.
The result of this privilege is a sense of entitlement towards knowledge. All knowledge. If there’s a question, we damn sure expect to be able to answer it. And if we can’t, we’ll Google it. If the search avails no answers, we tend to quit searching, judging the issue unimportant. We shrug our shoulders and get on with our day. We try ignore that which we don’t understand. We don’t like mystery. It makes us uncomfortable, because it reminds us of our limitations and inherent frailty as mortal humans.
But it is the uncertain aspects of life, the indefinable nuances and the ever-present dilemmas that create a need to keep showing up, day after day. If you knew exactly where you were going, how you would get there, and when you would reach your destination, would you bother putting any effort into today? If the song had already been written and you knew the score all the way through, would you bother learning to play your part? Would you even purchase an instrument? If there were two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, with the bases loaded and the home team down by one run, would you be on the edge of your seat if you already know the guy was going to strike out? Would you even go to the game?
I have never been as comfortable with uncertainty as I would like to be, and I know there are aspects of my life that will remain uncertain until...well, until it is time for them to be revealed. Which is to say, they will remain unknown until they aren’t. I don’t always love that fact, but I know the only way to gain perspective on life’s biggest, scariest questions is to let life’s mysteries reveal themselves to me on their schedule and that some mysteries may never be revealed. I don’t like that fact either, but I didn’t write the rules for this life, nor do I understand many of them. I just try to learn and follow them.
On a daily basis, I try : to accept that which I cannot change (life’s uncertainties), to summon the courage, strength, and patience to find answers where appropriate (life’s uncertainties that will eventually reveal themselves), and to know the difference between the two. To put it another way, I make the effort to LIVE every day, learning that which is taught, appreciating or accepting all that is either given or withheld, and letting go of that which is out of my control.
As an alcoholic and addict, my list of questions is rather long : Why me? Why did I waste so much time acting out on addictive behaviors? What caused my addiction? Do I get “good points” for being sober? Do I deserve any happiness in the aftermath of all my shitty behaviors? Have I made any significant positive changes? Am I closer to God than I was? Am I on the right track to making amends to God? Am I a better person now than I was, or is it just a matter of time and opportunity until I revert to the old habits? I’m not exactly sure how to answer most of these questions, and it is in the lack of a solid answer that these questions gain so much relevance.
The most important question is the one that cannot be definitively answered, because it is this quality that encourages me to keep showing up for life, learning, improving, and healing a little bit each day. Any critical question - and its answers - have the tendency to make subtle changes in their shades of meaning from day to day and hour to hour. Every time I think I’m getting close to an answer or basic understanding, the rules and questions shift, and I need to take a step back to reevaluate or look from a different perspective. This keeps me from getting complacent or lazy. It keeps me involved, and it is through every-day involvement that I learn vital life lessons.
As you let life unfold itself to you, stay comfortable with the fact that today’s questions and answers are as impermanent as this moment in time. Keep asking questions as a way to stay present, but don’t worry about being “right” There will always be another point of view and a new idea that contradicts your findings. It is more important to participate than to figure out all the reasons why everything is as it is. The Universe knows that if you knew how it all turns out, you might not stick around to experience it.
On any given day, a good question is infinitely more valuable than its answer.