To Get Better Answers, Ask Better Questions

I walk up to a door and put the wrong key in the lock. It doesn’t turn. Do I keep trying that same key over and over again?

Silly me, of course I do! Until it finally dawns on me I might be using the wrong key!

We sometimes do something similar when we’re asking important questions or praying important prayers. We ask a question or pray a prayer, and no answer is forthcoming. . . and yet keep asking/praying the very same thing, hoping that with the passage of time or a change in circumstances, the answer will somehow come. And sometimes sheer persistence is indeed what is needed.

But sometimes it can make all the difference to ask the same question from a different point of view.

We all know that in the physical world the Earth is not the center of the universe, rather that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Yet we often continue to live as if in the spiritual world “I-personally am the center of the universe”, when in fact WE revolve around the SON.

I note in passing that the Sun accounts for something like 99.9% of the mass of our solar system — all the planets including Earth are but infinitesimal dust motes drifting around the massive Sun. So humanity is like a dust-mote riding on a dust-mote drifting through the Void. As the Psalmist says, “What is humanity, that You are mindful of them?” (Ps. 8)

So. Instead of “What can I take,” try asking “What can I give?”

Rather than asking, “What’s my purpose in life?” try asking: “What do I have a gift for?” (As Emerson said: “The talent is the call.”)

Or, try changing “What do I want from life?” to “What is life asking of me?” (See Viktor Frankl here. )

Instead of asking, “Why are people treating me this way?” ask: “What am I doing that is eliciting this response?”

Don’t just ask: “Is this religious or philosophical idea real or true?” but also: “What are its fruits? What might it accomplish — for good or ill?”

So, when faced with a door and a key in hand, and the key doesn’t seem to work, sometimes the problem is that we have a perfectly good key, but we’re putting the wrong end into the lock. Try turning the key around, “reversing the polarity” — turning a Me-centric question or prayer into one that is God-centric or neighbor/community-centric. That can make all the difference.

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