The Importance of Asking Questions

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If I could share 500 words to inspire, this is the important wisdom I'd want to pass along to others...

  • We spend so much of our lives seeking answers to others’ questions and to the Big Questions: Who are we? Why do we exist? Why do we die? What happens afterward? How should we live? How can we be happy? How can we give back? What does it all mean?

    It’s important that we give these questions their due, that we try to answer them for ourselves. But we must also strike out on our own. In contemplation of the grail quest, comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell wrote, “Where there is a way or path, it is someone else’s path; each human being is a unique phenomenon.”

    We forge our own paths only once we begin to generate new questions. Our own questions. These questions will help us to define what matters to each one of us in particular and where we’re headed. They’ll evoke the shapes of our lives in the way that groups of stars suggest constellations. Answers put us in place, but questions point the way forward. Every journey begins with questions.

    The right question, posed at the right time, resembles a grappling hook well thrown and well landed, a path by which we can move forward and upward without needing wings. Perhaps angels are people who fly and people are angels who climb.

    In the Book of Genesis, Jacob wrestles an angel. This story has inspired visual art, music, novels, theater, and film. It’s a story told and retold, seen once and seen again, each time from a new angle in time and space. A clock itself becomes a metaphor for all the different views that life affords: we walk the numbered outer rim, looking inwards, glimpsing another facet of the center with each step as we cycle round.

    Perhaps angels, if they exist, have the ability to see all with one long glance, but we mere mortals must fall back on our own ability to see anew. If we hope to understand anything or anyone, we can only look and look again.

    And the best way to look again must be to ask questions, whether silently or out loud. It’s a craft and an art — or, at least, that’s what journalists and researchers come to understand. Now we have citizen journalists, but it would benefit us all to become citizen journalists in our own lives.

    Consider this: it’s the questions we don’t ask, the questions we’re afraid to ask, the questions we’re forced to ask that change our lives. Every question forms a doorway from ignorance and innocence onto knowledge. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, or so the maxim goes — when we look once, we can only see so much.

    Have we not all had that experience of people who look at us, just once, and then turn away? What have they seen? Themselves more than us. We know better when we do better, when we resolve to ask better questions, each one oriented by the one preceding it. There’s always more to see.

    Sierra Prasada

    Sierra Prasada is a Washington, D.C.-based author, journalist, editor, and teacher. She is co-author, with her father Dan Millman, of The Creative Compass: Writing Your Way from Inspiration to Publication. While living in and reporting on the Middle East, she gained proficiency in Arabic and wrote her first book, Creative Lives, profiling Lebanese artists. Her current undertakings include a ten-year 20th Century Project, a screenplay adaptation, and other fiction and nonfiction projects.

    For more information, please visit sierraprasada.com.

    View all posts by Sierra Prasada.

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    6 replies
    1. Jean
      Jean says:

      Excellent viewpoint. For many of us, we were never taught to question in childhood, we were taught that reward would come when we follow the path laid out by our parents, teachers and religious leaders. Learning to not only ask of ourselves but to have the courage to believe in our own answers is how we can turn disillusionment to focus.

      Reply
    2. Andrew
      Andrew says:

      Thanks Sierra for sharing your views. The only thing that I would like to say that everything in this life comes in time. We can not speed up or slow down anything. That is the same as spring comes after winter etc.That means that if people don’t ask those question that is only because they did not come to that point yet. But no worries we are all different and that is the beauty of our life :-)

      Reply
    3. snuggleyoga
      snuggleyoga says:

      A friend sent me this article and I was delighted to see that you wrote it! Powerful enticement to ask..ask…ask away. As journalists, we know the importance of asking questions, since we learn so much about the other person, or their situation as a result. It is how children discover the world. It is how we as adults can make sense of otherwise confusing situations. Curiosity is an essential nutrient…maybe a new type of Vitamin C! Hope the book is doing well out in the world~ Blessings, Edie Weinstein (It’s All About Relationships host who interviewed you and your dad:)

      Reply

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