My entire world was flipped upside down as I learned about ideas and worlds that I hadn’t even known existed. At the end of the year I was completely overwhelmed with this breadth of new knowledge and found that I had more questions leaving the program than I had when I entered. My professor knew that this would be the case and passed out a quote on the last day of class that I still keep posted in my room wherever I go. In his book of essays Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke discusses this idea of “living the questions now” and states that by living these questions, “someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”
I’ve found this sentiment to be completely valid. By searching for concrete answers to larger existential life questions at the moment that we desire their resolution, chances are we cannot understand what is being presented to us because we do not yet possess the experiences to receive and process the knowledge. Theologian Rev. William Lynch, S.J., refers to this idea when he mentions that humans are constantly “on the way” to understanding the self and the world around them. By journeying through reality in an observant, present, inquisitive, value-driven, and authentic-to-self way, both authors would agree that one is living “the questions” in hopes of receiving some greater insight down the line.
This can either seem like a lot of philosophical fluff or true genius regarding the process of human understanding. My experiences as a freshman in PULSE are inextricably linked to my reasons for studying abroad in the Philippines this past semester, as well as to how I choose to live my life. Leaving the program with so many questions prompted me to throw myself into situations wherein I could gain more insight into the world’s troubles, as well as simply how to live as a functioning human being in society. I wouldn’t have been able to comprehend the complex realities that I’m faced with everyday in this country if it were not for all of the experiences that I’ve had leading up to this semester, which all stemmed from an observant curiosity and desire of knowledge. While it may seem frustrating, sitting with the notion that living and gaining knowledge is a process is actually kind of calming.
I posed a challenge to you all in my first column. I dared everyone, including myself, to become a “capturer of details” by getting out and living in the crazy world that we all inhabit, living life in a creative and non-kitschy way, and becoming present and observant. Perhaps, all of this “living your ways into the answers” business is actually more relatable than one might think. By capturing the details and soaking up life one air particle, cup of tea, hug, or conversation at a time, you’re on the way toward living your way into these answers. Living according to one’s convictions, passions, and questions is accomplished in many ways, but sometimes it’s useful to return to the start and examine the quotidian details that make up the complex functioning of our even more intricately designed world.