Saturday, September 16, 2023

The Right Question

It feels like the problem with us flawed humans is our capacity to give the wrong answers to life’s persistent questions. Answers that someone else plants in our brain for their own profit and power and we too easily acquiesce. Answers that we ourselves generate and are willing to settle for, even as some part of us knows that they make us smaller and less kind and less happy. Answers that we cling to desperately just for the sake of having an answer, unable to live comfortably with the questions. 


But now I’m thinking that part of the problem is asking the wrong questions. That if we only met on the common ground of the right questions, our conversations, our time shared together will be less contentious, less oppositional, less spiteful or angry or jealous. That the North Star of the right question could guide us through all the temptations, wrong turns and head-on collisions. 


And so, when I re-read a poem from the anthology called The Path of Kindness: Poems of Connection and Joy, I was hit right between the eyes in the way that a good poem can. Appropriately titled, The Question, the poem begins:

    “All day, I replay these words:

    Is this the path of love?

    I think of them as I rise, as I wash dishes,

    as I drive too close behind the slow blue Subaru, Is this the path of love?…”


The poet, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, keeps asking the question throughout her day, notices how those “six words become compass, the new lens through which to see myself in the world.” When we gather together, when a proposal is being considered, when a decision is to be made, how different it all would be with this six word mantra for guidance. What would happen if all teachers came to staff meetings armed with this powerful inquiry when they’re asked to jump through the hoops of some bureaucrat far away? If all corporate employees dared to ask that out loud when the next machine designed for addiction is being proposed? If workers at the voting booths reminded the citizens to interrogate themselves before voting? Is this the path of love?


I read this poem at the end of yet another Orff workshop overflowing with joy, laughter, comradery and permission to trot out one’s extravagant quirky self. And during every minute of the non-stop five-hour fun fest, my answer to the question was, “Yes! Yes! And again, Yes!”

Given a choice, who would not choose to walk on the path of love? Sometimes it's as simple as asking the right question.

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