What is the question?


Years ago, I recall a friend dryly remarking: “Some days I don’t want to leave the house until I’ve figured it all out.”

These words have stayed with me not only because they’re funny but also because they’re true.  Especially in times of doubt or uncertainty,  the desire to resolve things once and for all can feel endlessly compelling.

But instead of seeking the right answers, more and more I find myself looking for the right questions.  For me, good questions are footholds in a steep and treacherous climb. They offer stability and sound footing, and as they orient me to what lies ahead, they often lead to surprising places.

Which is why I’m launching this new venture, which I’m calling The Questions Project.  I’ll share the questions that speak to me, and I hope you will do the same.  It’s an experiment in dispensing with the relentless pursuit of answers.

You probably know that famous exhortation of Rainer Marie Rilke to “[b]e 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.” Strangely it was only recently that I came to connect these words to my own experience. Of course, loving the questions means paying attention to them.

* * *

To start off this conversation, I’d love to hear your reflections on the title of this piece–“What is the question?” What does that question mean to you? What thoughts does it spark?

What is the question?

One thought on “What is the question?

  1. A Facebook friend & reader reminds me of Gertrude Stein’s purported last words. Here they are, pulled from a web source: “In one account by Toklas, when Stein was being wheeled into the operating room for surgery on her stomach, she asked Toklas, “What is the answer?” When Toklas did not answer, Stein said, “In that case, what is the question?””


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