“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
Rainer Maria Rilke ‘Letters to a Young Poet’ (1934)
I've read this quote so many times. In the past I've read it and aspired to love the questions, even while my heart and mind seemed determined to yearn after the answers. We live in a society that believes in solutions and that sees the questions not as a place to reside but as a barrier to get through as quickly as possible. Recently I rushed headlong towards a resolution to uncertainty. I leapt to embrace a solution despite the fact that it didn't fit.
I woke up the morning after this moment of decisiveness and felt out of sorts and out of place. I was not ready to live this answer. Instead I decided to keep company with the questions for a little longer. It was a wonderful relief.
At first I wondered whether this was the relief of avoidance. I wondered whether I had simply turned away from the hard questions and chosen to live in blissful, willful ignorance. I wondered how I would know the difference.
But as I sat in meditation one morning I realised that I already knew the difference between avoiding the question and keeping its company. As long as the questions were with me, as long as I was willing to sit with them and observe the feelings, thoughts and sensations that came up for me in their company, I was living the questions.
Three weeks later I don't know if I am any closer to an answer. But in the meantime living with the questions has turned out to be a refreshing change. Now that I don't feel the terrible pressure of making a choice, I can relax and really pay attention.