The Four Questions

The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.  Charles Du Bois

There are really only four questions:

  • Who am I?
  • Where do I belong?
  • What matters?
  • How do I live my life?

Consciously or unconsciously, we spend our whole lives trying to answer them.

We seek answers many places. Sometimes our search takes us into foreign territories with strange customs or directly into the path of danger. Sometimes we are stuck at home with old answers that no longer satisfy. We may go to great lengths to learn our necessary lessons. But life itself is much more generous than we at first know. She offers our lessons freely and without restraint. They make their way to us in the small things, in the unexpected, in the struggles, and in the ordinary. Our part is to be impeccably honest with ourselves and to pay careful attention.

Beware of anyone who pretends to have the answers for you. The answers are not the same for everyone. This is the blessing and the curse. We are blessed that we have each been given the authority to choose and to find the unique expression for our lives that is right for us. Yet, make no mistake, there is a curse there, too, at least for those who wish for easy answers. Life is a journey and a quest. Like all quests, there are pitfalls and predators and one can lose one's way.

There are many ways to get lost. We can lose ourselves in another person or in a profession or job. We can lose ourselves in addictions to alcohol, drugs, spending, sex, food, things, and, most often, to a self-image that supports the ego but not the soul. We can lose ourselves in self-pity and blame.

Or, we can make the commitment to be steadfast in our quest for the answers that are right and true and honest. Some of these answers do lie in the collective. Our uniqueness in no way relieves us of our humanity. We are one and we are part. Old truth is always relevant.

Some lessons come from teachers: parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, Mrs. Bailey from the fourth grade, pastors, priests, and rabbis, experts of various genres, and books, always books. Some lessons come from experience, good and bad. And some lessons come from mystery the symbol that keeps showing up, the inspiration that slips in when you are otherwise engaged, the dream that wakes you and shakes you, the moment when you see what you could not see before.

Our task, our mission, is to gather, to sort, to analyze, to engage, to allow ourselves to be taught. This is an act of individual choice and of personal will. Absolutely no one can do this for you. You are indeed on your own. It's often hard. We weep with the sadness of our losses and tremble at the fear of the unknown. We long for easy solutions. We are shamed by our failures.

And we journey on. As we go, the pieces of truth collect around us and shape us and orient us to the world. We are one and we are part. We travel in knowledge and in mystery. It is the way of things. And it is good.

There really are only four questions. It is possible that we will never know the answers with the kind of certainly that modern people feel entitled to. In the end, though, what matters most is not your conclusions, but rather how you made the journey. Trust the process and carry on!

The only source of knowledge is experience.  Albert Einstein