DEALING WITH THE BIG QUESTIONS

Avatar_DavidBentley How do you deal with the big questions of life? I’m not talking about someone asking what you want for dinner. I’m talking about the really difficult questions that Garrison Keillor calls “life’s persistent questions.” I’m talking about questions that determine the outcome of your life – questions that require both wisdom and discernment to lead you either to happiness and fulfillment or to misery and ruin, those questions that keep you awake at night.

Some people suggest you “fake it until you make it.” I tried that on a college essay exam once. In the margin of my essay, the professor drew a stick figure holding a blanket over a campfire with clouds of smoke floating into the air. Beside the picture he wrote, “I detect much smoke here.”

Other people suggest solitude and listening for a voice or watching for a sign. I’ve tried that as well, but my experience with voices in my head has not been good. They tend to be more judgmental than judicious. I have also found that, when I expect them, signs tend to either elude or confuse me.

Many people suggest the theory that we should not sweat the small stuff, adding the corollary that it is all small stuff. Sometimes, however, the questions we face certainly don’t seem like small stuff. Of course, having been born in flat New Orleans (which is below sea level) I tend to see mountains where other folks see hills.

Then there are poets and philosophers who suggest we attempt to live the questions for now without seeking answers. By doing so, they advise, we’ll one day realize we have lived our way into the answer without knowing it. I’m not sure, but somehow I think this is supposed to be different from just ignoring the question.

Novice sailors are taught that if their boat seems to be stalled, easing the trim slightly is the best course of action. In a world where certainty can be as fleeting as the wind, easing our stance and adjusting to prevailing circumstances just might be the best way to deal with difficult questions, too.

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About David Bentley

Avatar_DavidBentleyDavid Bentley, M.Ed., is an avid observer of people, places and events. He uses his storytelling and questioning skills to help himself and others think outside the box in an ever-changing world.

Comments about his column can be sent to davidbentley@sanjuanislander.com

© 2014 David Bentley