“The important thing is to not stop questioning”–Albert Einstein



I was an inquisitive child, even today I can remember asking the “big” questions of relatives, “Why did God make people?”  “Where did I live before I came to my family?”  I took a poll once, figuring that whatever answer received the most votes must be the correct one. Aunts and uncles would smile, pat my head –or pull my nose and pretend they had it in their hand, as I asked them about the mysteries of life—and then my parents would remind me that children are to be seen and not heard. I grew a little older and loved learning about the “scientific method.” A corner of the laundry room became my lab as I spent hours looking at things under the microscope, mixing chemicals from my chemistry set and reading biographies about Louis Pasteur and Madame Curie. I had my “Junior Conservation Kit,” complete with tweezers and magnifying glass, to take on family campouts, where I gathered specimens of leaves and rocks in my preparation for my career as a forest ranger.  Junior High, in the early seventies, introduced me to “social awareness,” I would strum my guitar and ponder my world of a war in Vietnam, space travel, overpopulation and pollution. (Don’t laugh, I even won a pair of binoculars and a bird watching book with my idea to clean up the air with a giant filter like the one in my aquarium.) High school introduced me to the world of political ideas and my favorite teacher, Mrs. Simmerman, kept us thinking about the Cold War, the Iranian Crisis and Watergate. I discovered George Orwell and Aldous Huxley and contemplated the consequences of living in my brave new world. Paradoxically, by the time I reached college when most young adults are just beginning to “question everything,” I settled down and I quit questioning anything, because I had the answers—all of them. What a wonderful place “the university” was — so secure, so certain, so sure.

But, as Dr. Timothy Johnson points out in his book Finding God in the Questions, “Passages between the seasons of life have a way of provoking questions to answers we take for granted because we’ve been living with them for so long. When change occurs, old questions often take on critical importance again.” I have learned that having “the answers” doesn’t necessarily mean “the questions” ever really go away, even those earliest questions of a precocious kindergartner or an awkward seventh grader. Perhaps, they can be shelved, they can be numbed, they can be buried, but always they will remain part of our lives. Reading, studying, pondering continued to be a part of my life squeezed in between dishes, laundry and teaching my children “the answers.” Unfortunately, as the great historian, Will Durant, has pointed out, “Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.” And, discovering that ignorance, finally opened my heart to once again experience the childlike joy of “asking the questions.”

It is scary to feel like a kindergartner again, whether it is going back to school, trying to make a lump of clay look like a pot or sitting in front of a mirror struggling to sketch a self-portrait with a piece of chalk. But, kindergarten is also a wonderful place. Kindergarten is our first introduction to being independent. It is where we let go of our mother’s hand and learn to raise our own hands and ask questions. It is where we first experience the “burden of freedom.” It is a crossing of a threshold. Dr. Timothy Johnson continues, “ The pivotal points in my own pilgrimage have occurred when I crossed the thresholds of change-from inherited beliefs to intense questioning, from intense questioning to discovering what I truly believed and disbelieved.” As I too, passed through these thresholds of change, I have had to learn to live with ambiguity, uncertainty…and a few hot flashes. But I have also learned to appreciate this view of life expressed by Theubten Chodron, “I believe that spiritual practice is more about holding questions than finding answers. Seeking one correct answer often comes from a wish to make life which is basically fluid, into something certain and fixed. This often leads to rigidity, close-mindedness, and intolerance. On the other hand, holding a question—exploring its many facets over time-puts us in touch with the mystery of life. Holding questions accustoms us to the ungraspable nature of life and enables us to understand things from a range of perspectives.”

I loved “holding questions” as a child. I found peace in our school library and joy in my makeshift “laundry room lab,” as I got a little older. I enjoyed our naive discussions in my high school political science class. And now, as an adult, even without my “Ranger Rick Nature Kit”, I enjoy analyzing the “ungraspable nature of life.” I love discussing philosophy late into the night with Steve and often wish for the days of the Paris Salon. Most importantly, I have experienced fulfillment of the promise “Seek and ye shall find, ask and it shall be given….and always what I have received is more questions—just like Mrs. Simmerman used to do in American History!! No wonder she was everyone’s favorite teacher.

***************************

With this post, I have decided to close my “Seeking Peace” blog. Perhaps,“seeking peace” includes not posting the “innermost thoughts and feelings” of one’s heart in such a public forum. I will continue to post the ubiquitous vacation and birthday pictures on my other blog and I will continue to write the thoughts of my heart in a journal for my grandchildren. I have learned that being a writer, even a mediocre one, requires thick skin or a pseudonym, neither of which I have. So adieu my loyal readers!

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8 Responses to “The important thing is to not stop questioning”–Albert Einstein

  1. I remember being a kid and thinking about who made God. It would boggle my mind and make me so frustrated. Then I just decided to have faith that I would find out the answers to a lot of these questions when the time is right. I am glad you are a seeker of peace. You have been an example to me to be a peace seeker too. I have found so much peace in nature as I ponder Christ and my many blessings. I think that is silliness you are closing this blog. Keep it open. I love reading your thoughts.
    I like the stain glass window pic too.

  2. cathy gardner says:

    Once again, your writing amazes me! I was wishing I was one of your grandchildren so I could someday read that journal! You always make me think and yet I don’t always comment because I don’t ever feel like I have the words to say things well. I do understand the “not thick skin” and I guess that is a requirement when you open your heart to others…I will miss the peek into your thoughts and heart and hope I can find a way to get a glimpse now and then!

  3. Cheryl says:

    I suppose I should start by saying I’m sad to see you shutting this down. It seems some of your deepest thoughts have been posted during one of the busiest times of my life. It feels like it was January just yesterday. Too many things have happened, and too many blogs have been written for me to keep up.

    Next I will say that I must be related to you because I’m the queen of questioning. If you ask my friends, they’ll tell you I’m always the one raising the questions. I think that’s part of the reason I want to meet everyone and go everywhere. I want to know everything too! I’m glad you taught me the little trick of reading young adult books to find things out. After I do that, I can decide if I want to delve into something more deeply. And thank goodness I live in the age of Google. I love finding an instant answer when I want to know something.

    That leads me to my next thought. I like finding answers. I think it’s possible to find real, satisfying answers without it meaning that I’ve stopped questioning. And I disagree that it means that it leads to “rigidity, close-mindedness, and intolerance” although that is possible. There are lots of things to which I find real answers that satisfy me, but those answers frequently lead to new questions of a progressive nature. With science, I still can be found with my kids studying something cool that we put under a microscope. I understand more than I used to, but it makes me wonder about more complex things. But I’m grateful for definitive scientific answers like knowing that smoking is bad for me. In religion, I have found peace and comfort in some very real answers to questions about the existence of God and His love for me. Those answers just prompt me to ask more questions about what He wants for me and how I can be like Him. It makes me wonder why He doesn’t intervene when things like a major earthquake and tsunami destroy millions of people’s lives. Maybe I’ll never know everything, but I’ve found so many things in this life that I know bring me joy and peace, that I’m probably okay with not really knowing everything. I plan to continue studying and learning till the day I die, but I’ll believe what I’ve learned along the way too. That’s my choice because faith takes me good places sometimes too. (I should probably write all of this in my own blog, though, instead of hijacking yours through comments, eh?)

    Finally, I just have to say again that I’ll miss your writing. As I’ve read your blogs, I’ve come to realize that despite our being related, I don’t think I’m a writer. I’d much rather sit down with someone and have a face-to-face conversation about what I’m thinking. Again, that might be why I want to meet everyone. But, I love to read things other people write because I learn so much. Everything I read becomes a part of my thoughts and my psyche by confirming my beliefs, changing what I think, or at least prompting me to go search for more. Thanks for always doing that with your blogs, your papers for your Masters, your book, etc. I will miss reading them. If you change your mind, I’m sure your readership will be waiting.

  4. Colleen Down says:

    This comment on a book review at Amazon made me laugh:

    There are two kinds of people in the world: those who love questions and those who love answers.

    Question-lovers focus on the ambiguity and uncertainty of belief. Reality is bigger and more complex than our theories about it. Consequently, we must be humble in the face of mystery, knowing how much we do not know.

    Answer-lovers focus on the clarity and certainty of belief. Reality may slip the grasp of theory at the margins, but theory has a firm grip on reality at the center. So, we must act courageously in the world on the basis of what we do know.

    Rob Bell loves questions. His critics love answers. This difference between them–a difference that is both temperamental and methodological–illuminates the controversy surrounding Bell’s new book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.

  5. Heather says:

    I like that review. I read an article long ago about Adam and Eve representing faith and questioning, and how they need not be diametrically opposed, but complimentary. I’ve though back to it often as Dave is usually the Adam to my Eve. We need both sides in our life and in the world I guess.

    I can relate to what you are feeling about closing this blog. I don’t have the skin for it, and I can’t think of a good pseudonym for myself so I have an awful lot of posts in my “drafts” column. Like Aunt Cheryl said, your audience will be waiting if you change you mind.

    Love you.

  6. Cheryl says:

    I appreciate Heather’s comment as I was about to enter my comment when I read hers. My comment was just going to be, “Viva la difference!” I’ve always maintained that it’s a good thing we are not all alike or this world would be a pretty boring and stagnant place.

    And while I think the reviewer makes a good overall point, I’m still not convinced that everything is that black and white. I’m pretty sure there are a few people out there who have a blend of both question and answer seeker in them. It probably depends on the hormones flowing through them at the time!

    Anyway, thanks again for a great, thought-provoking post.

  7. Colleen Down says:

    Oh, post your drafts Heather-or go by the other name we were going to give you-Aspen-that works for a Heber mama…I feel bad if I am quelling anyone’s creativity. Jessica sent me two quotes. “Creativity takes courage”–Henri Matisse
    and “If you want to dance-dance” Billy Elliot. Always something to think about…

  8. Carolyn Chase says:

    Colleen – I certainly hope you continue to offer your thoughts and reflections. Even preachers realize that while their words may comfort the afflicted, they also afflict the comfortable. From the comments I’ve read, it’s clear that many find it valuable. I would suggest that you ask those who might be uncomfortable with what you’ve said to engage in a dialog about the subject, and offer their responses and thoughts to be considered.

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