“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke
Sometimes it seems there really are more questions than answers. I have spent a lot of time developing patience with the many things that have been unsolved in my heart over the years. At any given time, I’ve had a lot of questions that have required that I develop patience. There are times when I seem no closer to the answers than when I first started asking all of the existential questions: Why am I here? What is my purpose? What would happen if I stick these tweezers in the socket? Yes, I was quite young when I began asking all these questions, including the last one. (I tried it and lived to tell the tale.)
In all seriousness, I have learned to live in a space where I had to begin trying to love the questions, because the answers either were not coming or were so obscured I could not read them. Sometimes they have been tantalizingly close; I can literally feel them, see them on the periphery of my sight, but when I turn my head to “catch” them, they wink away. I have spent a great deal of time living the questions, befriending them, at times lamenting them. I can’t help but feel that perhaps I am approaching the “distant day” that Rilke refers to, and that I am actually starting to live into some answers. And beyond that, I find that there’s no longer a sense of urgency in my questions.
Perhaps, indeed, Rilke’s “distant day” is here. The answers are likely all around me, not out of reach as I used to envision them, but all around. It could be I had to live the questions until they became the real questions. I have no idea. And although I have my days of doubt and frustration and sometimes anger at what I see in the world around me, I also know that I am here to help resolve someone else’s questions.
Have you ever done something, said something to someone, offered a kind word or gesture, went out of your way to reach out to someone you hadn’t spoken to for a while? And when you did that, the person responded with something like, “Thank you, that was exactly what I needed to hear?” On that day, in that moment, you answered a question they didn’t even know they’d asked. There have been times when, in conversation with someone, I can literally feel their spirit drinking in what I am saying. It is the divine spark in them responding to the divine spark in me. In that moment, I helped them live into an answer.
As for my own questions, I have at times been hard pressed to find answers or have not recognized them when they were given to me. I think it’s kind of the law of “physician heal thyself,” in which those of us who coach and guide and lead and offer all kinds of sage advice, are very nearly incapable of doing anything of the sort for ourselves. I think that, too, is a spiritual principle of sorts, based on our interdependence with all other beings. We truly do need each other and provide balance for one another.
Oh yes, I’m learning to love the questions and live into them as best I can as I wait for that “distant day.” Over the course of these 40 days I’ve explored a variety of questions, noting some of those here in this blog, and contemplating others in my heart and mind. And now we approach the last days, of the Lenten season and of this year’s blog.
In liturgical terms, today is “Maundy Thursday,” which I grew up referring to as “Holy Thursday.” It’s the evening during which Christians commemorate the “Last Supper,” the last time Jesus hung out and broke bread with his closest followers. It was the night his betrayer would hand him over to the authorities, commencing Jesus’s last days on the planet. Tomorrow, “Good Friday” is probably the most solemn day in the liturgical year; and even though I no longer adhere to the various practices and tenets of my former faith tradition, I still find myself reflecting on various elements of Jesus’s final, agonizing hours–at the last supper, his anguished prayer time in the garden of Gethsemane, and his arrest, torture and crucifixion.
Regardless of the faith tradition of the various people who’ve taken this journey with me this year, I appreciate your company, the occasional comments you shared, your “likes” and “shares” on Facebook. My purpose in writing each year is about learning to love and living into the questions alongside you, and perhaps occasionally living an answer or two. Thank you for joining me.