Answering Questions with Better Questions

As I prepare myself for starting work on a PhD, I do so with a range of emotions. Some days I have the confidence of lion, knowing that I’m up for the intellectual challenge, the persistence through frustration, and the occasional need to outlast boredom with the research process. Some days I very seriously question whether I have anything of value to offer the academic world, and wonder if I’m about to embark upon the grandest form of missing the point I’ve ever been a part of. Some days I simply get a little nervous about my ability to answer questions.

For me, questions are a big deal. Perhaps the biggest deal of them all. After living more than half of my adult life with the distinct impression that it was my job to find and discover the “right” answers to all of life’s important questions, I stumbled my way into a different thought process. One that isn’t so bound up with clean categories and elegant solutions to problems. One that actually revels in the tension of muddy waters. One that values good questions more than good answers.

I know that here and there, it’s important to have some certainty when it comes to how one constructs one’s life. I believe that it’s in having firm boundaries that gives me the ability to enjoy exploring uncertainties. I just find that the more I prune the list of things I “have to” feel security about, the more I experience creativity, freedom, and energy. Sometimes, this leaves me feeling like I’m walking an overly dangerous tightrope, and other times, I feel like I’ve only just begun shedding myself of my training wheels.

More than anything, I’ve found that people who have more answers than questions are either too confident to realize their answers are insufficient, or old and wise enough to know better. I’d rather be the guy with lots of good questions and a few good answers than the other way around. That’s one of the reasons the college students I used to work with both loved and hated conversations with me – I make it a point to answer questions with better questions.

So, here I go, into a new process, where I’m literally supposed to try to find some answers to a research question. I suspect (and hope) I’ll find more questions along the way.

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  1. This reminds me of Mark 11:27-33 Yeshua was awesome at answering with better questions n sometimes unanswerable questions. The wiser I get the more I am able deal with life’s unanswered questions in regards to spiritual things. I know Who holds all of life’s answers.

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