This is an archive of the old Stones Cry Out site. For the current site, click here.

« Dear Kids | Main | The Great Misreading »

November 13, 2006

Dear Kids, November 12, 2006

[For an explanation of this series, see this entry.]

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The real questions are the ones that obtrude upon your consciousness whether you like it or not, the ones that make your mind start vibrating like a jackhammer, the ones that you "come to terms with" only to discover that they are still there. The real questions refuse to be placated. They barge into your life at the times when it seems most important for them to stay away. They are the questions asked most frequently and answered most inadequately, the ones that reveal their true natures slowly, reluctantly, most often against your will. Ingrid Bengis

It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers. James Thurber

The wise man doesn't give the right answers, he poses the right questions. Claude Levi-Strauss

Dear Kids,

Today I have been thinking, as the quotes above indicate, about the importance of questions, and how important it is for you to continually ask questions. People do not ask enough questions these days. Certainly people think about the mundane questions, such as “what will I wear today?” or “where will I eat?” These are not, however, the questions of which I am thinking.

Nor is questioning a value unto itself, as those who display the bumper stick “Question Authority” might have you believe. (As an aside, I would definitely encourage you to question anything you read on a bumper sticker.) Saying “Question Authority” alone is nonsense. Would you “question authority” if the authorities said “a tornado is coming, you should seek shelter immediately?” Of course not. No, the questions are important as a means to get to an end—they are not an end unto themselves.

In other words, my adjuration to you to ask questions is really a simple way of stating a more complex idea, which is that you should live an examined life. An examined life is one in which you don the habit of questioning what your values are and whether the things you do are serving your values. An examined life is necessary to lead a good life well lived. And that, a good life well lived, is the point, in my estimation, of living at all.

You will want to start with the question of whether you believe in God, and if so, which conception of God. Since you have grown up in our house, you have had ample (I hope!) exposure to the Christian revelation of God. I also hope that by this time you have committed your life to Christ. If you have, I should let you know that you will likely think about that, reconsider it, struggle with it, and wrestle with it for the rest of your life. Do not lose heart! This struggle makes you a stronger Christian. The more you examine your faith, the more you probe the truth of the Christian gospel and your own belief in that gospel, the stronger your faith will become. A person with a weak belief foundation fears wrestling with God; a person whose faith is strong need not fear such encounter. More about this perhaps later, as we are thinking about questions at the moment.

The questions do not end with your faith decision—the questions really only begin with faith. The next few questions you have to ask yourself, and keep asking yourself, are variants of the following: “What is my conception of the good life?” “What is my conception of living that good life well?” “What values form the core of such good life?” “What behaviors tend to lead toward such good life?” “What behaviors tend to lead away from such good life?”

These are exceptionally important questions. If you do believe in the Christian faith, then you will have some framework for answering, at least partially, at least some of these questions. The Bible, however, does not provide an exact blueprint for your life. It provides a few specifics and some general guideposts—it puts fences around the boundaries—but it does not otherwise direct the path.

Accordingly, you will want to start, if you have not already, asking yourself the above set of questions. You are eighteen; that is the time to start.

These questions, by the way, are not reducible to “what job will I have,” “whom will I marry,” “where will I live,” or “how much money will I make”. All of those questions follow the previous questions about a good life well lived, values and behaviors. Indeed, to the extent you can begin to map out a conception of what is a good life well lived, and what values and behaviors follow from that, the lesser questions that begin this paragraph really sort themselves out rather nicely (and at least one of them becomes irrelevant in any event).

If you begin to ask yourself (and continue to ask yourself, this process by its nature does not end) these questions, you will be in a much better position than many of your fellow Americans. Many Americans, full-grown adult Americans, do not bother to ask themselves any of these questions. It just never occurs to them. One does not need to wonder, then, why we have the number of neuroses, anxieties, bouts of depression, etc. in this country that we reportedly do. Asking and answering, however experimentally and temporarily, these questions in a lifelong process won’t always save you from experiencing such feelings, but will at least better equip you to deal with them.

Once these bigger questions are asked and answered, though, you get to go on to a new series of questions—at least if you are taking the previous questions seriously. Those types of questions will be addressed in my next entry.


Posted by Mark at November 13, 2006 02:10 AM

Trackback Pings


"Would you “question authority” if the authorities said “a tornado is coming, you should seek shelter immediately?”"

'Twould depend upon whether or not "the authorities" have a habit of issuing questionable warnings, perhaps if they've done so to secure some benefit for themselves - control of power, for instance, or increasing taxes needlessly.

Posted by: Dan Trabue at November 13, 2006 03:06 PM