Audrey Greene, coordinator of the Worship Committee at Bell St Chapel, asks, “Maybe, we just have to learn to live without answers. To think of the questions as an end in themselves. Is that possible?”
I like to sing and dance. Aside from sitting with my children at the kitchen table and watching them eat, singing and dancing are the closest thing to heaven for me. But there’s this point. Not always, not every time, really only when I’m learning, when urrrrrgh. The timing is not there, the note won’t come, the feet are not connected to the brain. Granted, being 6 feet tall, my feet are quite a ways from my brain and that may be part of my problem with dancing.
But I’ll bet each of you has experienced a moment like this, many times. You’re learning a language, or taking your first fencing class, or trying water color painting, when you’re reaching, you’re struggling for the right way, the answer, and it feels like it’s never going to happen. You feel unmoored, uncertain, even afraid. I see little kids deal with this every day and it is interesting to see which ones keep trying and which ones throw themselves into fits of weeping and which ones just walk away.
Honestly, I’ve often been the type who walks away. I think this is because my mother told me I was smart. So I thought anything I didn’t know instantly and without effort wasn’t worth learning. This is not a good mindset for a child entering first grade, and I can tell you it didn’t win me many friends. My mom was doing the best she could, but I wish she’d told me I would sometimes fail, mess up, feel frustration. I’m still working on this.
Someone told me that that uncomfortable feeling is actually your brain growing dendrites, new connections between cells. This is a very good thing, especially for folks of a certain age. Actually, I think uncertainty, that urggh feeling, is a good thing for everyone.
Yes, we are a meaning-making species, we love answers. But answers for their own sakes, especially when it concerns the vast messy problem of people living together in peace, can be limiting and dangerous. Sometimes it feels to me like many Americans would love to have any answers at all, even very outdated ones from 250 years ago, just so long as they are answers. And it seems there are plenty of people willing and eager to provide those answers, even if they have to make them up.
Maybe, we just have to learn to live without answers. To think of the questions as an end in themselves. Is that possible?
Here is where I think Unitarian Universalism and especially Bell Street can lead the way. Although even in this congregation, we can get a little squirrelly (which, parenthetically, is a great image; a little wild-eyed animal clutching her precious nut of truth, her eyes darting this way and that) when things are in flux. I think we are uniquely qualified to open, examine, and live with life’s pressing questions. Where are we going? Who are we? Why are we here? Who knows? We are okay being unmoored, a little scared. We know we have each other. I say, let’s continue to drift together.
– Audrey Greene