Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Questions, Answers

Last week I wrote some, practiced some, organized some. I did lots of normal everyday stuff and also cleaned my office (definitely not normal-everyday.) The whole week, frost flowers climbed across my office window, advancing and receding without my really noticing the movement. Just every once in a while—hey, look at that! and later—gone.

Also last week, from A.Word.A.Day, this: There are years that ask questions and years that answer. –Zora Neale Hurston

I’m so glad that’s true.

I had been suspecting it, wondering on some level. Because what a relief. If entire years can ask and answer questions then that allows for time—long stretches of itand all the other things that move slowly and profoundly but only while you aren’t looking. Like the frost on my window.

*     *     *

Friday afternoon, as we worked our way through a bitter windy parking lot after violin, Oldest and Middle expounded on the future of technology. The things they talked about teetered on the brink of science fiction: information uploaded directly into our brains, easy learning, instant knowledge. I had to ask: So is being able to carry or transfer information the same as knowing something? I think they thought I was trying to be argumentative, but I wasn’t. I spend hours a day trying to move people from understanding, to ability, to something that is a deep abiding part of their being. Besides effort and process, the thing that seems to matter the most in this progression is time.

*     *     *

Whole years of questions = whole years of discomfort, true. But the softness of not-knowing is there, too. Have you ever run into the hard brick wall of someone else’s Knowing? I think I prefer softness. That slow slow motion and growth. Because it must be here in the question years that compassion grows, and humility, and humanity.

The years that answer—they are like breathing pure oxygen. Peaceful, whole. Welcome. And yet they probably hold as much potential for danger as the question years. A person could get stuck there. The questions and answers need each other desperately, and as much as I hate to admit it I need them both.

These are things I maybe have not wanted to accept: the necessity of the question years, the long periods of time that answers and understanding require, the waiting. But the idea of slow things, of softness and knowing and Time, of a cycle of questions and answers that does not ever have to tire out—there are promises there. They make me want to promise to keep watch.

Frost flowers creep
across the window—
seen, not seen.

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