Sunday, January 24, 2016

Living the Questions

"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

I went back into my previous blog post titles and realized that there are several posts that I never finished and that still linger as Drafts in my blogger account.  Often they are more like unsolved questions that are lived but that I'm not quite able to articulate.  Here's a really big title and theme left unwritten: Dr. King; The Tradition of Nonviolent Civil Disobedience and Nature Study.  I know that there is a connection between Dr. King, the tradition of nonviolent civil disobedience and Nature Study and maybe even an answer or two to some of the big questions of our day buried between that interface, I'm just not sure what.  This title and many others live as drafts in cyberspace and in my mind as unresolved questions.   Rilke captured this human dilemma in the above quote, and I know that he is right.  We need to live with our questions.  Answers don't drive us and move us forward, questions are what drive us and move us forward.  They make us who we are. . . To be human, is to be living with questions.  The details and answers in life have a place, but only a place.  We need to make room for more than answers.  The facts and details of our lives are embedded and framed by the bigger unanswerable questions that we hold.  It makes us who we are.

There are lots of seemingly large unanswerable questions we need to hold onto. . . How do we love our enemy?  Can we end poverty and hunger?  What would world peace look like?  How do we save our planet?  These questions have a place, even if they have no clear apparent answers.  Holding onto these big questions gives us hope for a future we cannot see.  Letting go of these big questions is to fall into despair and hopelessness.  We may not be able to bring about world peace, but maybe we can bring a bit more peace to a student or a friend through a generous act or a few kind words.  Maybe we can share our own resources a bit more generously and help a family or two with a heating bill or a food basket.   Maybe taking care of an outdoor learning center and bringing students outside to learn is a kind of small nonviolent civil disobedience that is needed in an age of excessive data and test taking.  It seems like the big questions give us a path to both wander and wonder, if we opened enough to listen.  

Computers are made for answers, but humans are the ones who hold onto the questions.  And we are the holders of hope and transformation or the bearers of despair and hopelessness.  In previous blogs I have talked about wonder, passion and love for the subject matter as important attributes for learning.  All of those things are hard to evaluate in a standardized test.  Holding onto big questions without apparent answers is another critical skills (or perhaps human attribute) we need to give time and voice to in education.  And again, it is nothing we can evaluate on a standardized test, but it is worthy nonetheless.

I think the future of great thought and of education will be in the hands of poets like Rilke and you and I, who are willing to hold onto big questions without needing immediate answers.  And this is good news, because we are born into wonder and we are born into poetry.  Rilke and others only reminds us that this is so.

I wish for all of you, big questions that fill you with wonder and hope for a world yet to be.  Perhaps just living with them, "gradually, without noticing it, [we will] live along some distant day into the answer[s]."