Stay with the Open Question

I was reading a pretty cool book the other day by philosopher and neuroscientist Evan Thompson called “Waking, Dreaming, Being”

We all live in a world where most of us need answers to feel comfortable.

To be safe, we crave certainty. At least i always have. Maybe not in ways that are so apparently obvious, but i’ve always been more comfortable when i think I’ve got it all figured out – or have found someone else to follow who has.

Thompson talks about his own mentor – Fransico J Varela, who was both a highly respected biologist and a practicing Tibetan monk, all in the same lifetime.

(and I mean that in the you only live once kind of way 🙂

The irony of course seems obvious if you know anything about biology – and it’s seemingly not so willing to play nice in the sandbox attitude towards things that most Tibetan monks take as truth.

Ideas about karma, reincarnation, transmigration of souls, bardo realms, siddhi’s and other supernatural superstitions are not the sort of thing most world class, eminent biologists believe.

Varela liked to reconcile his seemingly disparate worlds with the idea of staying with the open question.

Being open and honest about what we know….and what we don’t know – and not being wedded to outcomes we don’t yet, and CAN’T yet…. intellectually own.

Pressing it – poking it – prodding it – twisting and turning it and watching where it wobbles along the way.

One of the great gifts that the practice of mindfulness has given me has been the ability to finally stay with the open question.

I’ve never called it that. Or even quite thought of it using those exact same words.

But being able to see the contents of my own consciousness as ephemeral objects arising in awareness – not mine to answer or own – just to observe…..all of the teeth gnashing nonsense about needing the right answers seems to fall away.

The conflicts,the crises and the confusions – even moments of great creativity – they come and they go.

I’m not sure they teach anything at all worth learning.

When you divorce yourself from the idea that there is an answer – that there is something concrete – or certain to gain or glean – it all becomes part of the passing parade.

The more I understand about life, the more it all becomes an open question.

There is a freedom in that, somehow – that you can quite earn any other way.

Simply allowing it all to be there – an arms reach away – but never grabbing or grasping or closing your fingers tightly enough to think you’ve got it in your hand.

I think, there is wisdom in that idea.

Staying with the open question.

Let it all be the question – and the question becomes your life.

it’s quite easy, actually – because it’s happening that way anyhow – even when you think the right answers are finally and neatly stacking up on your side of the street.

I think of my art – and my work, this way as well.

There is some sort of odd arrangement of luck and happenstance and circumstance and hard work.

Sometimes it all conspires in our favor and we look, in that Walter White sort of way as the one who knocks…..and other times we are tethered to the wrong tree when the forest starts to fall.

Freedom, with conditions, is not real freedom.

So stay with the open question.

I may be wrong.



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