I believe life is a quest — not an ans.
It’s the journey — not the destination — that keeps our interest and causes us to adventure (or stumble) into new territory. And the journey is filled with that which we know not: the unknown.
How comfortable are we in the unknown? Or, to put it another way, how much do we need to have the answers, to be right in our opinions?
Being “right” by having an answer assures us that we are competent. So we often pressure ourselves to get an answer to whatever challenge we are facing as quickly as possible.
The poet Rainer Maria Rilke, in her “Letter to a Young Poet,” advises us of another way:
Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart
And try to love the questions themselves.
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 answers.
How do we restrain from rushing for answers, almost any answer just to bring relief? Do we settle for an assumption rather than seek more information? Or do we instead believe what someone in authority tells us, just to close off any questions?
Living the question is similar to being on the circus trapeze. It’s often frightening to be in the middle, waiting for the other bar to swing toward us. Waiting in the unknown can be very uncomfortable.
Our quest is to untangle the dilemmas that rise in our life over and over, showing up in various forms, but bringing similar uncomfortable emotions — without closing down prematurely on any answer.
Patience is required to address challenges. We must deeply listen, asking “And what else?” rather than jumping to conclusions. We need to see our assumptions for what they are: things we have assumed to be true without thorough investigation.
By taking time each day to sit quietly, breathe, and watch our mind, we gradually see what we are thinking. If we don’t get lost in the content of the thoughts or our stories, we can begin to sort out what is unskillful, what doesn’t nourish.
Sitting in the unknown, paying close attention to what arises in the mind, we can simply wait and watch what happens.
Answers come to us. They arise unbidden.
In this way, we grow into the solutions rather than trying to shape them ourselves. If there is a lot of “hot energy” around any answer, we can be pretty sure it comes from the ego, as the ego always gets very excited when it thinks it has a good idea. However, this is usually premature and not helpful.
So we wait. Good ideas will arise. Time and patience help us to sort them out.
As we follow the clues in front of us step by step, we will be led into our future. We will gradually grow into the answer that brings true satisfaction and contentment.
So we wait. It takes time to grow into the fullness of life.