I imagine there’s a scale that applies to all of us. It measures our tolerance to what I like to call ‘exposure’.
In mountain climbing, the higher the degree of exposure, the more challenging and dangerous our route is. That’s mainly a scale of physical exposure, but with some strong psychological overtones (fear of heights). The exposure that particularly interests me is ‘mind-and-soul exposure’. It gauges our willingness to proceed with our lives while consciously carrying in ourselves questions that deeply affect us, allowing them to live powerfully in us although we know we don’t have the final answers.
How high (or low) is our tolerance to exposure? If it’s high, we can dare journeys into the unknown, we can put dearly-held assumptions at risk, we can invite overwhelming wonder and mind-numbing uncertainty. We can open our window on the world and the universe.
A live question is an open door to the world. Answers often close that door. What’s the point in looking if we already know the answer? Knowing the answer signals a belief. In everyday life they’re handy things, beliefs, and they lend a comfortable solidity to our prosaic lives – solid things generally stay solid and give us something firm to stand on. On the other hand, the person who unquestioningly throws out mouldy milk is unlikely to discover penicillin.
I may have had some persuasive experiences to do with some of the ‘large’ questions: Where do we come from? Where are we going? Why does the sun come up in the morning? All respect to these experiences and to the hunches they encourage. But, personally, I don’t want to close down my hunches by freezing them into beliefs. What is the point in shutting ourselves down just for some undependable security?
There’s a poem by Rumi that connects with what I’m trying to say:
Think that you’re gliding out from the face of a cliff
like an eagle. Think you’re walking
like a tiger walks by himself in the forest.
You’re most handsome when you’re after food.
Spend less time with nightingales and peacocks .
One is just a voice, the other just a color.
P.S. I also like nightingales and peacocks… and thunderstorms.