She was like an expert balasador, flashing a deck of index cards on the table. Every student in the class gave her one card with our name on it. The whole class was her whole deck. She seems like a gypsy ready to pick and read a tarot card.
Here’s our typical class: she picks a card, calls out the name written on it. Then she tells the student to stand up and answer her question. But the student stands there clueless, stares at her as if she has just spoken an exotic language. Without remorse, she stares back, tells the student to keep standing. This is the cost of coming unprepared to her class.
So our class was a “standing” class, a platoon of slouching students. Only a few lucky ones remained seated. They either answered our teacher’s question or their names were, fortunately, saved by the bell.
Like the rest of the class, I found her questions tough to answer. No matter how much I study, the lessons remained gibberish to me. Though that was the fate we faced, I believe I just stood up only twice the entire semester. But it wasn’t sheer luck. Neither I was smart enough to avoid it. What I did was I reversed the role.
I asked her questions instead.
I asked her about terms I hardly understood. Questions about philosophical complexities of the subject matter. Question that are, well, illogical, but still logical.
I asked her questions I genuinely wanted answers.
It was a breather for my classmates whenever I asked questions. My teacher seemed to enjoy answering me. I was spared from standing.
One day, she announced to the class that I was her most favorite student. Maybe I was too smart to pass the quizzes, but that is not the reason at all. I was never a diligent student, either. I spent time Googling than reading my lessons.
She called me more often to ask her my questions and not anymore to answer hers.
One line has helped me survived that class: The most subversive people are those who ask questions.
I read this from Norwegian philosopher Jostein Gaarder’s novel Sophie’s World. It has remained indelible in my memory since.
And I like to revise it in a more positive way: The most powerful people are those who ask questions.
To ask a question is an act of power. But how often do we really ask?
Asking a question (more importantly, life questions) is a first step to a new journey. The word quest leaps from word question. We are up to discover something in the uncharted regions of our lives. A question punctuates the humdrum, the repetitive, the routine, the monotonous, like arriving at road junction forked to many unknown directions.
Questions might cause us to feel discomfort, to make us cringe and squirm. We have questions we often brush off because we don’t want them rack our brains out. Questions that causes the idiomatic “pain in the neck” and “nosebleed”.
There are questions about life, about the way we think, the way we speak in and to our minds, the things we have accepted and never questioned. These are questions we dare not to ask because they eat us from inside.
When it comes to Love, questions are like thorns in the bushes. We are punctured by its wildness.
Why do we fall in/out of Love? How can we find the right person? What does it take to be loved by someone? Why do people we Love leave?
At the surface, these questions are valid. They are not wrong, but where they come from is not right, either.
So we must dare to confront our questions with these ones: Why these questions? Why do we ask them? These questions are both creative and destructive.
They destroy our presumptions that all questions need answers. And they create, like the way a plough prepares the soil for planting. These counter-questions ready our awareness, so we can examine our troubling questions, and start to ask new ones that help us redirect to a deeper meaning, to a gentle awakening.
Can we actually “rise” in Love? How do ourselves become the “right person” to Love? Why is Love more “being” than doing? How does Love never run out, or leave?
We question our questions, and ask them again. This time, our questions are not just personal anymore. Like energy, they expand and permeate. Like water, they move and flow.
We will stumble upon a vast field of questions, all share an irrefutable universality. That our questions sprout from the same seedbed: the desire to Love and be Loved
We will always find ourselves in the cusp of mystery. It is not just about the pettiness of our existence. We all share the essence and meaning, no matter how personal we struggle with our relationships, or any aspect of our lives. Our curiosity, as always, is as universal as our breath. We are always in the direction of asking – and rediscovering a life that we are capable of creating.
The German poet Ranier Maria Rilke wrote to a young poet:
Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart, and try to love the questions themselves.
We are not here to find answers. Answers come like blades of grass that grow by themselves. Answers come not just for us, but for those whose questions we share with others, even if they are asked differently.
It is more our purpose to ask. And we are here to love our questions more, and the impulse of cosmic truth that compels us to ask.
Thank you, Bing, for asking your question.