The call to wrestle with our stories is dangerous, all-consuming work that stirs up more questions than answers and, sometimes, feels an awful lot like death. Here, Matt Morrissey, who is moving into his second year as a student in the MA in Counseling Psychology program, writes about patience, kindness, and danger—all of which are essential to living into the questions so that we can know and tell our stories more fully. This post originally appeared on Matt’s personal blog, To Be Found.
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves…Do not 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.” —Rainer Maria Rilke
This year has been a whirlwind of chaos. I have chosen to walk a path into turbulent waters, stories untold and glory redeemed. I have fought to know beauty and pain, tasting goodness and heartache in the same dreadful bite. I have begun to listen to the unsolved, unanswered, and unyielding questions that linger within. I have begun to know my story, to live my life by first living my questions.
I have always been a curious boy, a questioning boy, who dreams and dares to believe. Likewise, I have always been a doubting boy, who risks to challenge, to think, and to defy. To question anything is a risk. The greatest scientists, artists, and philosophers risked their lives daring to ask great questions. When we question we risk to offend, to find no answer; we risk despair in the emptiness of never knowing and never seeing. But the greatest risk is not merely questioning the world you live in but rather the world within you. To still your soul to the pitter patter of your own heart and to tend to the questions that grow so wildly within is the bravest form of asking. How brave it is to notice, to love, and to honor the questions that speak so loudly, so softly, and so truly within!
I often wonder what kind of world we could create if we, together, dared to listen to our stories, to those burning questions we are so quick to hush. I wonder what it would look like if we began to know ourselves authentically, for the sake of the other. I am fooled to hope that one day I can create that world, that I am called to make space for questions, unanswered and unashamed.
Live your questions now.
3 Steps to Living Your Questions:
Be patient with the questions you find or don’t find as they echo back and forth. Be patient as they come and go, as they scream in your face or hide in your whisper. Be patient as they challenge what you know or undo what you’ve done. Be patient as you sit in and wade through the mud that is your story; be patient when all is lost and none is found. Be patient to those who do not understand your questions, who do not want to hear your heart or who refuse to see your courage. In all things be patient.
Do not confuse patience with lethargic waiting absent of effort. Patience is hard work; it is an endless effort. I once heard a Buddhist friend say, “Patient effort, enduring effort, persistent, consistent effort is greater, more noble, than the violent effort of frustration and anger.” Too often I am rushed to answer my questions, frustrated by the unearthing, unbearable, and unknowing that is my story.
Be kind to yourself; if anything at all, dear friends, be kind to yourself. Be kind to those wild parts of you which are unknown and untamed. Be kind to the young, naive, and unsophisticated selves that speak your questions. Be kind to yourself as you find new doors to open and old windows to break. Be kind to the voices you hear, the images you see, and the depth you feel. Be kind to the questions as they emerge out of your darkness. Where there are questions there is pain, fear, and chaos. In our questions we discover our desires, and in our desires we find tragedy. But be patient and be kind, because I promise that out of the chaos will come peace, and out of the fear will come safety, and out of the pain will come healing. But first we must dare to question, to tell our stories so bravely that we feel it all, both beauty and pain, both goodness and terror. Trust the questions so that you may be kind to all that they bring.
Be dangerous; dare so greatly that most will call you mad. Be dangerous with the questions that arise, and risk to tell their full story. Be vulnerable enough to risk your life as you know it. To be patient and kind is not to negate danger. In fact, it is the greatest danger. It is not safe to ask questions, and yet we must live them with unabandoned hope. To hope is the most threatening endeavor of our time. Hope requires questions and imagination that kill the present status quo. To question is to risk death—death to what has been told, death to what has been known and lived. Be dangerous enough to die so that new questions may spring forth out of your fertile burial grounds. Be dangerous enough to live your questions in new ways, in new kind and patient ways. Be dangerous enough so that you may uncover those hidden, shaky questions lurking in the shadows. Be dangerous enough to not question for answers but for more questions. Live your questions so dangerously that courage is your only option; courage that knows pain, fear, and tragedy but dares to question for healing, safety, and peace.
We must cling to our questions, we must live them, and we must be so bold as to tell them loudly. In a letter to a young poet, Rainer Maria Rilke challenged him to live his questions. He said, “Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” But finding the answer was never the point. We must venture first to live our questions, so that the life within them may be known and cherished.
Live your questions so that you may know your story and boldly love your author.