Purpose//

The Questions That Can Lead Us

The final column in a series exploring wisdom and where we find it.

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

I am dazzled by the great good I can discern everywhere out there. I have a heart full, arms full, a mind brimful and bursting with a sense of what is healing us even when we don’t know it and haven’t asked for it. And I do mean healing: not curing, not solving, not fixing, but creating the opportunity for deepened life together, for growing more wise and more whole, not just older, not just smarter.

My mind inclines now, more than ever, towards hope. I’m consciously shedding the assumption that a skeptical point of view is the most intellectually credible. Intellect does not function in opposition to mystery; tolerance is not more pragmatic than love; and cynicism is not more reasonable than hope. Unlike almost every worthwhile thing in life, cynicism is easy. It’s never proven wrong by the corruption or the catastrophe. It’s not generative. It judges things as they are, but does not lift a finger to try to shift them.

I experience the soul of this moment—in people young and old—to be aspirational. This is something distinct from ambitious, though the two may overlap. I’d say it this way: we want to be called to our best selves. We long to figure out what that would look like. And we are figuring out that we need each other to do so. This listening for the calling, and the shining, fragile figuring out, are tucked inside the musings I hear from people as much about how they want to be and who they want to be as about what they want to be.

We only learn to walk when we risk falling down, and this equation holds—with commensurately more complex dynamics—our whole lives long. I have heard endless variations on this theme—the battle with illness that saves the life that follows; the childhood pain that leads to vocation; the disability that opens into wholeness and a presence to the hidden wholeness of others. You have your own stories, the dramatic and more ordinary moments where what has gone wrong becomes an opening to more of yourself and part of your gift to the world. This is the beginning of wisdom.

The questions that can lead us are already alive in our midst, waiting to be summoned and made real. It is a joy to name them. It is a gift to plant them in our senses, our bodies, the places we inhabit, the part of the world we can see and touch and help to heal. It is a relief to claim our love of each other and take that on as an adventure, a calling. It is a pleasure to wonder at the mystery we are and find delight in the vastness of reality that is embedded in our beings. It is a privilege to hold something robust and resilient called hope, which has the power to shift the world on its axis.

The question of what it means to be human is now inextricable from the question of who we are to each other. We have riches of knowledge and insight, of tools both tangible and spiritual, to rise to this calling. We have it in us to become wise.

Excerpted from BECOMING WISE by Krista Tippett. Reprinted by arrangement with Penguin Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright (c) Krista Tippett, 2016.

To hear my weekly conversations with scientists, philosophers, artists and others, visit OnBeing.org, or listen to On Being on your local public radio station, or wherever you get your podcasts. My book Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living is available now in paperback. And you might also enjoy – and join in – On Being’s Civil Conversations Project.

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- MARCUS AURELIUS

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