Questions and Answers

Consider the following statements… “There are no answers, only questions.” “Life is all about the journey, not the destination.” “A teacher or a counselor should encourage dialogue, not provide direction.” All true as far as they go. And yet.

Life is finite. There is no escaping the necessity for answers and destinations and directions, even if in some sense they are never final but only provisional. If you ask the love of your life for an answer to the question “Will you marry me?” then presumably you don’t want to hear that there are no answers, only questions! Any journey worthy of the name consists of a series of interim destinations, not completely random wanderings. Dialogue is delightful, but at its most constructive it results in realizations – often inspired by directions that a person or a book suggests – enabling you to make decisions about your future.

Here as always there is a balance to be struck.

On the one hand, if you’re merely handed the answers or informed of your destination or told what direction to go in, then you’re not truly learning or building the skills you must acquire in order to live well. On the other hand, a genuinely wise person knows that some answers and destinations and directions are better than others, and strives to help others avoid the brambles and stay on a path to flourishing and fulfillment.

And here as always it’s finding the beautifully right balance that is the greatest challenge. As Spinoza says at the very end of his Ethics, “all things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.”

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