On her death bed, the American poet, novelist and playwright Gertrude Stein, asked her life partner Alice B Toklas “What is the answer?”. When Toklas did not answer, Stein sighed and said “In that case what is the question?”.
In our lives, we so often focus on providing the answers that we seldom reflect on the questions. We are going for the quick fixes, and by doing so we risk running in different directions without really knowing why or where we are going. If we are always seeking the answers, we also become reactive and steered by questions posed by others. Being the ones formulating the questions, instead puts us in the driving seat and allows us to define the direction, and eventually our lives.
But before thinking of “What is the question?”, let’s stop for a little while to reflect on “What is a question?”.
To me the essence of a question could be many things, for example:
- A question could be the first step on a journey.
- A question could be the lightening that sets the forest on fire.
- A question could be the seed that will eventually grow into a tree.
- A question could be what defines us as humans.
- A question could be the act of falling in love.
- A question could be beginning with no end and an end with no beginning.
- A question could be the key to the mystery of life.
- A question could be the inspiration for creativity.
I’m sure that by decoupling your left brain for a few moments, you could also arrive at your own views on what is the essence of a question.
Reflecting on the many depths and dimensions of “What is a question?”, one also realises that there is no such thing as a dumb question – only questions that will lead you in different directions when seeking their answers.
Some questions may be seeds for new creative ideas, while others may inspire you to dwell deeper into the big existential mysteries of life, like “Who am I?” or “Why does my soufflé always sink to a rubbery mess?”.
Lily Tomlin, paraphrasing Gertrude Stein, asked, “If love is the answer, what is the question?”, while Carl Jung reflected “The meaning of my existence is that life has addressed a question to me.”
What is your question?
Illustration: PixaBay.com – Geralt