We all live our lives in search of answers.
We do this whether we notice it or not. We look for connections between where we’ve been, where we are and, consequently, where we ought to go next. It’s a basic component of human nature. We want to connect all of the dots before we’re capable of moving forward – to make sure we aren’t blindly following a path that leads us nowhere.
And most of the time this method works. But here’s the problem: There are going to be times when the answers aren’t apparent. Times when we’re grasping at straws. Times when the inevitable pondering of “Where to go next” or “What brought me here” are as unanswerable as they are infuriating. These are the times that knock us down. The times that possess the ability to absolutely paralyze us.
Here’s a thought: Maybe the reason you can’t figure out the moral of your story is because it isn’t over yet. Maybe this is the low point in your tale, the artificial downfall of your character, the halfway there point that feels like the end. Maybe the reason you can’t complete your puzzle is because you’re only holding half of the pieces and it isn’t time to put them all together yet.
I know we want to have it all figured out. I know we never want to move forward with half an idea as to where we’ve been and where to go next. But there are times when we simply have to let go of answers and live out the questions. Let them form, evolve, change into the answers that we need and may someday even realize. We don’t always get to have it figured out. There are times when we simply have more living to do.
In “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy,” a science fiction series written by Douglas Adams, a group of beings asks a supercomputer named “Deep Thought” to tell them the “Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything.” After 7.5 million years of considering this question, the super computer finally reveals the ultimate answer to Life, the Universe and Everything to be 42.
Though this passage was meant to be a simple humorous interlude, it brings light to the muddled nature in which we both pose and answer questions. These beings were looking for wisdom but what they got was a simple number – perhaps the breakdown of a complicated formula or code. And much like those ethereal beings, we are so often surprised by the answers that life ends up providing us with.
We want justice but instead we learn compassion. We want certainty but instead we encounter chaos. We want change but instead we are presented with unending, insufferable monotony. And at some point along the line we have to wonder: Have we simply been posing the wrong questions?
And what about our lives would change if we simply started re-phrasing them?
What if we stopped asking, “Why me,” and started asking, “Which of my actions imposed this?”
What if we stopped asking, “When does the pain end” and started asking, “How do I pull myself out of this?”
What if we stopped thinking “I hope things get better” and started asking ourselves, “What do I want to see happen?”
What if we altogether stopped demanding answers from the Universe and simply started cultivating questions we’re more capable of answering? Questions like “Where next” and “What next” and “Why not me?” What if we rose up to those answers? What if we let our own actions be the responses we so direly want?
At the end of the day, the Universe is under no obligation to answer us anything. We could spend our lives in search of the answers – assessing and reassessing the meaning of everything that happens to us – or we could simply take control of the entire conversation. We could start working backwards – deciding which answers we want and going out in the pursuit of them. If you want the moral of your life to be love, you love more. If you want it to be adventure, you get on that airplane. It’s as simple and as complex for that. Sometimes we truly do get to decide the answers to our own questions. We don’t have to wait for life to spell them all out for us.
Instead of wondering what the meaning of your life is, why not ask yourself what meaning you’re going to bring to it? What changes you’re ready to make? What answers you’re going to provide through the choices you make every day?
What if life is just one big question that each of us simply get our best shot at answering between the time we’re born and the time that we die?
And if so, what do you want your answer to be?