Questions of a Different Kind

Living on the outside margin of linear time is at once both decompressing and uplifting. Kennon and I are spending a week perched on this margin while I ponder questions about entering my eighth decade of life.

We are in a small cabin across the Hana Highway from the ocean. Our internet connection and cell telephone service is on-again/off-again (more off than on); there are no stores, hotels, restaurants or shops within three miles of our abode; no newspapers are available, and fresh fruit and avocados are abundant from trees on this property and from neighbors who put their excess on tables near the road.

If I hit it just right I can get some news over the internet. In one of those moments I learned that the senate Democrats finally mustered the courage to blow away the filibuster. Yes, I know that this might come back to bite them if and when the Republicans take control––– but that is how it should be.

My take is that one of the reasons voting levels in the United States are so abysmal is that the winning side cannot implement the agenda it ran on, and as a result there are few substantive consequences from an election. Elections become partisan power games rather than transforming events. I also favor giving the president a line-item veto for the same reason.

But thinking about politics is not the reason for this journey to Hana. Instead of posing a question about politics or social policy, I will share with you the life questions I am wrestling with each day. They come from the poet David Whyte’s “Questions That Have No Right to Go Away.”  I have engaged the first three. They are questions that demand critical reflection and a tough honesty.

Whyte wrote that they “have to do with the person we are about to become; they are conversations that will happen with our without our conscious participation. They most always have something to do with how we might be more generous, more courageous, more present, more dedicated, and they also have something to do with timing: when we might step through the doorway into something bigger, better–– both beyond ourselves and more of ourselves at the same time.” You can find all ten here (along with Whyte’s answers).

The three I have worked with so far are:

  1. Do I know how to have a real conversation, one in which I invite another to reveal him/herself to me and in which I truly listen to what is said?

2. What can I be wholehearted about… what do I care most about––– in family, vocation, and in my heart and mind? Whyte writes that this “is a conversation we must have with ourselves at every stage of our lives, a conversation that we often don’t want to have…”

3. Am I harvesting from this year’s season of life? Where am I now, and where do I want to go? Am I struggling to stay in a place I was previously comfortable, or living on the frontier I am actually on right now? Whyte suggests that too often we live “for or five years behind the curve of our own transformation.”

On my first day I found myself skipping over the surface of the questions, writing answers in my journal that made me feel good about myself. Yesterday I delved deeper and today my writing is a much more honest reflection of where I actually am in life, and what it means to enter eldership.

I offer them to you to engage or discharge. Meanwhile, I am going for a walk on the beach!