“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue…And the point is to live everything. Live the questions.” – Rainier Maria Rilke
I needed a break from the minutiae of data that I was dealing with at work yesterday so I took a few minutes to listen to Krista Tippet’s conversation with poet and philosopher David Whyte on the On Being podcast. The conversation turned to the human experience and how we face life. Referencing the poet, John O’Donohue, David Whyte posed the practice of asking beautiful questions:
John used to talk about how you shaped a more beautiful mind; that it’s an actual discipline, no matter what circumstances you’re in. The way I interpreted it was the discipline of asking beautiful questions and that a beautiful question shapes a beautiful mind. And so the ability to ask beautiful questions — often in very un-beautiful moments — is one of the great disciplines of a human life. And a beautiful question starts to shape your identity as much by asking it as it does by having it answered. And you don’t have to do anything about it, you just have to keep asking. And before you know it, you will find yourself actually shaping a different life, meeting different people, finding conversations that are leading you in those directions that you wouldn’t even have seen before.David Whyte
This sent me on a search to find out more about John O’Donohue’s idea of a beautiful mind and found this passage in an excerpt from John’s unpublished work:
Your mind is your greatest treasure. We become so taken up with the world, with having and doing more and more, we come to ignore who we are and forget what we see the world with. The most powerful way to change your life is to change your mind.
When you beautify your mind, you beautify your world. You learn to see differently. In what seemed like dead situations, secret possibilities and invitations begin to open before you. In old suffering that held you long paralyzed, you find new keys. When your mind awakens, your life comes alive and the creative adventure of your soul takes off. Passion and compassion become your new companions.John O’Donohue
Inspired by both of these Irish poets, I started trying to think of beautiful questions.
What is the softest touch I can apply in this situation? (to myself, to the Earth, to others)
What is there to see right here and now with compassionate curiosity?
And this one I heard from my 8-year-old next door neighbor as I was ferrying the girls home from school, “Why would we not?”
Indeed, why not?
In the interview with Krista Tippett summed up David’s musing on beautiful questions with “That’s what Rilke called ‘living the question.‘”
What beautiful questions come to your mind?
(featured photo from Pexels)