Questioning Starts with Each of Us
A few days ago, in a conversation with a second-year law student from Madrid, I listened deeply not only to his words but also to the deep questioning of young people around him.
He observed that while half his classmates may be studying law, they are unsure why they are; apart from being expected to do so. He spent a great deal of time sharing that many are not only lost but their parents are as well. And no one has answers to the questions they have about life beyond school and whether they will actually have jobs when they graduate. They were brought up to believe that anything is possible but are increasingly finding it challenging to buy into this story as they face the current state of the world. Trust is broken.
This young man cares deeply not just about his own future but about those around him. In the last year, three of his classmates came to him on the verge of taking their lives out of pure despair. He wasn’t sure why they chose him but was glad they trusted him with their questions and that he was able to help. He shared how lost so many are right now and they want a different path but don’t see what is possible within the current stories they inherited about how life should be, And he knows in his heart that there is a way out of this darkness.
The Gift of a Broken Heart
Our conversation reminded me of Bryan Welch, publisher and author of Beautiful and Abundant: Building the World We Want and CEO at Mindful. In an article called “The Gift of a Broken Heart,” Bryan openly shares the story of how he lost his son Noah, who at twenty-six chose to leave the planet. As a person who suddenly lost someone very close to me when I was twenty-six, I cried as I read the words that sprung off my computer screen and into my heart.
Bryan beautifully shares his perspective as a parent:
“Grief can be like the ocean. Its surface is turbulent. Waves tumble us about. We struggle to catch a breath before we’re submerged again, then we’re inverted ten feet down, the pressure excruciating. Then, inexplicably, a flash of light and a breath of air at the surface again.
Deep grief can be like the deep ocean. In the midnight zone, too deep for sunlight to penetrate, there’s no sign of the storm on the surface. It’s cold and dark. It can be very still. Not much is living there. One can feel the slightest current from something—or someone—swimming near in the darkness.
In my abyss, I felt newly connected to the suffering in the world. My own sadness was strong, so pervasive, so much a part of my moment-to-moment awareness that it didn’t feel practical or necessary to protect myself from the suffering of others anymore. I couldn’t disguise or anesthetize my vulnerability.
I cried, uncontrollably, in front of the television at home. I cried in business meetings. I cried in restaurants. I cried on airplanes . . . My broken heart was damaged, for sure, but it was also more open than it had been. I grew more interested in the sadness and pain of other people, pain I realized I had been blocking all my life.”
Questioning is A Timeless Technology that is Asking Us to Listen
In my first post about the Great Questioning, I shared that, people are shifting from making a living to pay the bills to living a meaningful life–understanding what we truly need and when enough is enough. Questioning brings about a timeless technology-like dialogue that reminds us that we simply forgot how to listen to ourselves and each other. We don’t have all the answers to all the questions, and we never will. If the last few years have shown us anything on a global scale is that no one knows much of anything.
Every one of us has our own story. There is an opportunity to rekindle the art of conversation and learn to truly listen to yourself, and then to others. Too often, when you are having a conversation with someone, they will interrupt you mid-sentence and ask if you have read this or that latest book, or if you are using this or that latest app, or share their own experience.
By just articulating a few words, they have tried to connect you to something that is familiar to them. Their intent is usually one of wanting to be helpful, and though the book or app or story they mention may be valuable to you, their comment shows that they are not actively listening. Most of us have been conditioned to focus on being smart and knowledgeable, but the opportunity is there to be compassionate and empathetic as well. A lot happens when we start listening more fully.
We might even hear the deep questioning of a soul.
The questions are all around us as are the canned answers. But the answers (narratives) are no longer enough. In a polite world, we rarely practice radical honesty as we have been so trapped by the lies or the storylines that “this is how it is is” or this is “normal.” But more than 180 million of us across the planet are calling bullshit and saying, enough.
Being Human Means Questioning
There is another way and we are here to listen deeply to the questions and create healthy answers and structures to support us by tapping into our vast imagination. It takes a lot of work from unlearning the conditioning to the simple joy of connecting heart to heart with another person who needs us to simply listen.
Our suicide rates are skyrocketing at all ages across the board. What is more important than letting go and understanding that The Great Resignation, which is a lot more than what is being hyped, is simply a bigger issue of a unique time in history when we allow ourselves to create what we need most?
And not only listen to the questions but question our canned answers. It goes back to the child who is asking the grown-ups today, why do humans eat cows and not zebras? And not accepting their answer of this is just how it is.
What if we start helping young people, and ourselves, to ask questions and understand that there is no universal manual of success. Each one of our treks is different and it’s ok to sit with the questions as questioning is healthy, even when the answers are not clear. This is why we have been gifted with creativity, curiosity, compassion, and an ability to listen to the whispers of our hearts. Each heart is set at it owns frequency.
Here we are in 2022, what is possible for you? What are you questioning?