"Nothing shapes our lives so much as the questions we ask, refuse to ask, or never dream of asking. " (Sam Keen)
Steve Jobs, of blessed memory, asked hard questions, challenged the accepted norms and created a new universal language fusing art and science, transforming the way we live. I watched an interview with him once where he said that he only had one question 'how can this be better'?
Great leaders know how to challenge their communities, asking hard questions that change the collective narrative, sometimes for better sometimes for worse.
Reflective thinkers take time to ask themselves questions that are equally important to their inner lives and growth.
One day to go before the feast and the fast of kippur, and another chance to pause and ponder the questions that guide this journey, which is almost over: How's life? why am I writing (or reading) this? how can I make life better – for me and all around me? what do I need to learn? and finally, how do I take these high and holy days and make them truly transformational, meaningful, real?
This PREPENT process is all about asking real questions. The answers matter less. At its core, this process of teshuva is all about the courage to challenge the status quo and ask hard questions. Teshuva means 'return' or 'reply' – but first must come the questions, honest and demanding.
In "The Absence of God", the book by Sam Keen that I've been reading during this journey and quoting from, he writes about the importance of questions. Reading it this morning, on the subway to school, I underlined a passage and added a note:
"The men and women who made an enduring mark in history ignored the accepted worldviews, values, and myths of their time and chose to pursue their own answers to their deepest questions.Here's a random sample.
How we can put an end to suffering? – Buddha
What is eternal and unchanging? – Plato
Of what may I be certain? – Descartes
Why were men born free but are everywhere in chains? — Karl Marx
What is the meaning of dreams? – Sigmund Freud
How is a woman unlike a man? — Betty Friedan"
And I add my question – "papa, can you hear me?"
Not just coz it's Barbara singing, as Yentel, in the over the top super kitschy final scene of the movie, but also because somehow, for me, this question is a deep yearning for what's beyond the here and now.
All of our liturgy can be found here.
Any body out there? Is there rhyme or reason? Can I find comfort and guidance in the quiet place inside my heart where, maybe, the divine is present?
What is the one question with which you will enter this day of atonement?
Perhaps teshuva – the process of finding answers to our greatest questions can happen only we are willing to risk the questions that define our lives, regardless of the outcome?