Buckle up your seat belts. We're going to ponder the role of questions and answers in our lives. Today's blog post has been copied and pasted from the introduction of Chapter Twenty in a book I'm editing, the big novel that follows The Oasis Within, a book called The Golden Palace. Occasionally, a chapter in the book will begin with a philosophical reflection. But more often, chapters open with a stunning plot twist that controverts our expectations. This is book two of what I've written just by watching the mental movie that came to me. So I'm always as surprised as readers will soon be. But onto our reflection, which came to me just as unexpectedly as any dialogue or plot twist.
Questions are normally easier to arrive at than answers. They can just come to us, unexpected and uninvited. They can sometimes almost force themselves on us. But answers, we normally have to go looking to find. And some will elude us, no matter how hard we look. And yet, there’s a bit of a paradox here. Not all questions are easy. It can take a true genius to come up with the right breakthrough question for any domain of human life or inquiry. That’s not easy at all. In fact, the first secret to pioneering accomplishment in most areas of life is to ask the right questions. This is because, once you’re inquiring in the right direction, your path will almost inevitably lead you to interesting and important new realizations, if you keep at it and don’t give up. Great questions often define the creative spark.
And even before any answers materialize, merely living with the right questions can deepen your life, alter your understanding, and make you a different person. Those who can’t live with unanswered questions can’t function well or dwell at the highest level of existence in this world.
It’s been said that a little philosophy is a dangerous thing. That’s because a modicum of philosophical reflection gives us most of the ultimate questions, but without most of the answers. And many people, learning that the answers aren’t nearly as easy to identify as the questions, get discouraged and then despair of finding the truth, or even of there being any truth about these deepest of issues. It’s only with extended and persistent philosophy that the answers to our most challenging questions can be pursued effectively, and eventually found. They’re hard to dig up, and some of them can seem impossible to attain, as you journey hard in their direction.
There are many lines of basic inquiry about life that have been pursued for centuries, even millennia. An initial surprise is that the people who have thought about them the hardest don’t often agree. That can be troubling, and even disheartening, because these great thinkers of the past can sometimes even be worlds apart. A conclusion then begins to emerge. The full form of the final answers about the ultimate contours and conditions of life may just elude us, even through the entirety of our earthly adventures. But typically, on any deep subjects regarding the core issues of our existence, the harder the answers are to find, the more important they may be. This means that all the work required to seek them out should, in the end, be worth the effort. Yet, this will be true only if we persist.
Using our minds well to chase the truth can be an extraordinarily beneficial activity. If we’re open, and genuinely curious, we’ll almost always benefit in some way from the pursuit. And with some lines of inquiry, it may be that the most beneficial result of the quest will be not a propositional answer, a statement of truth realized by the mind, so much as a personal transformation, a new lived understanding felt in the heart. The blinders finally come off, and we see anew.