Wednesday, November 03, 2004

"Live the questions now."

It’s one of my favorite quotes. It’s the quote that concludes the disclaimer glued on the inside cover of every one of my journals. Rainer Maria Rilke penned it decades ago in a correspondence with a young poet who sought his advice on writing and on life. “You are so young, so before all beginning, I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue.” I am having a very tough time being patient toward all that is unsolved in my heart today. I am feeling overwhelmed with questions, and I’m not loving any of them. Will I become a more compassionate, giving woman in a world where so many are lonely, afraid, poor, sick, and downcast? Will I take up Martin Luther King Jr.’s clarion call for drum majors for justice in a world where justice, peace, and generosity seem to be an afterthought so often? Will I accept every raise, bonus, and tax break as due recompense for my husband’s hard work in college, at GE, and now at Bank of America, and as my due because I support my husband in his efforts? Will I use our money for more clothes, books, and pens, for a newer, bigger car/house/diamond ring/lawn mower/television/thing? Or will I take more of our simple, tremendous abundance and provide for “the least of these,” the orphaned, dispossessed, malnourished, underdressed, and imprisoned? Am I willing to forego some of my luxuries, buy fewer Christmas presents for my children, and eat out fewer times each month so that some of what I save can go to nations where obesity is non-existent and credit cards are useless because there is precious little to eat and nothing to buy? Will I make personal decisions with the national and global good in mind: eating foods that were grown and cultivated without chemical fertilizers, using organic cleaning products, walking more, consuming less fuel, turning my heat and air conditioning down at home and in the car? Will I care for the single mothers, pregnant teenagers, and abandoned children around me who don’t have nuclear families at this time when “family values” are on everyone’s lips? Will I go to other nations, get my hands dirty, coat my dreadlocs in mud, wipe the sweaty brows of exhausted mothers, and then return to my own country with the good news of lives being transformed overseas? Was I or was I not put in this position of privilege, power, and given this much passion for such a time as this? And will my nation, with its Christian President, godly heritage, family values, and kinder, gentler citizenry lead the world in pursuing peace, justice, and democracy in places like Sudan, Haiti, and Cuba when we are done in Afghanistan and Iraq? Will we be salt and light in our dark and rotting, desperate and dying world? Rilke goes on: “Do not seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” So that’s my challenge. Live the questions, the irksome, vexing, salient questions now. Live into the answers. My dear friend, Cliffe Knechtle, used to describe our society like this: “We get all we can, can all we get, sit on the lid, and poison the rest.” It’s time for me to get off the lid, open the can, and share what I have been so graciously given. It’s time for us to do it as a family, as a church, and as a nation. The questions are tough, but I know that the answers are well within our ability to answer - and to answer decisively. One more question: will I live the answers as passionately and mindfully and prayerfully as I do the questions? Hopeful, Gail

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