Spoiler alert: This is a rabbit hole.
I have spent most of my life searching for answers. I thought searching for answers is what life was about; you encounter a problem and then discover the solution, you ask a question and then find the answer. In this way, life is all about forward progress. Each answer gets you one step closer to your destination.
However, my world is filled with what I can only describe as “Mysteries of the Universe.” My life questions feel equal parts conundrum and paradox, and they seem to defy simple or textbook answers. They keep me in an infinite, unanswerable loop, unable to make any tangible progress—forward or otherwise.
The mystery of the universe that has remained with me, unanswered, for as long as I can remember is a question of purpose; equal parts “Why am I here?” and “Where am I going?”
Certainly, we all face questions that require answers. We all have problems that require solutions. So, where do we find the answers? According to Nietzsche:
We hear only those questions for which we are in a position to find answers.
And if that doesn’t work, there is always Rilke:
Live your questions now, and perhaps even without knowing it,
you will live along some distant day into your answers.
Trust me, I was not tuned in and listening for the questions, these mysteries of the universe, that came my way. And respectfully, living with my questions feels like it has gotten me absolutely nowhere. Clearly, I am not in a position to find my answers, and living into them seems improbable at this point.
Nevertheless, I kept asking and searching, which was idiocy, I admit. Afraid I was going to perish with the questions in me, unanswered, I went looking for the experience and wisdom of those who have gone before me. I needed help to find my answers and continue to make forward progress in life.
I found one answer by Ursula LeGuin.
There are no right answers to wrong questions.
“Amen Sister!” was all I could think. Then I found Buckminster Fuller:
You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the old model obsolete.
How could Nietzsche and Rilke be at odds with LeGuin & Fuller? I was down the rabbit hole, well past an adventure into the unknown. I felt like I was running out of time, and it was maddening.
Ok Bucky, I thought, I can’t change the reality of my unanswered questions; I just need to build a new model. But build a new model of what? A question? Well then Ursula, having tried for years to find answers to my questions, I am happy to admit that maybe these were the wrong questions after all. But where does that leave me?
A new question? Maybe it’s not about finding an answer to my current question after all, but rather finding a better question.
Somehow, that approach felt like a mulligan—a simple do-over plan. Does refining a question that has you stymied in order to continue making forward progress in life even count? Is a question within a question even a thing, albeit no different from a life lesson I had recently learned – a lesson in a lesson.
Down the rabbit hole with nowhere to go, I gave it a try. Rather than asking “Why am I here?” and “Where am I going?” I rephrased and refined the questions to ask “What do I have to give?” and “What difference can I make?”
And the answers poured out of me.
Sometimes it's the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination.
Questions within questions. The wisdom that came before me, Nietzsche, Rilke, LeGuin, and Fuller all had something to teach me.
I am going to listen and live my truth, one question at a time, as I live my way into my answers.