Architecture of a Question

Architecture of a Question

Tim May

Questioning seems intrinsically human

Our questions are a response to our experiences. They are the result of living in both a constantly confusing and overwhelmingly fascinating world. What’s your question?

There is great humility in questioning. Honest questions demonstrate a desire to learn and, more importantly, the humility needed to create space to learn.

Plato believed that the most important words his teacher Socrates ever said were, ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’. Questioning seems intrinsically human and something fundamental to the experience of being.

Of course, there is a lot to be said for certainty. As with a doctor in the middle of surgery or a pilot facing turbulence, sureness and confidence are invaluable. But what if your questions can’t be answered in a lecture hall? Or can’t be solved with an equation?

The questions that dominate my experience move quickly beyond the material. They require more than a description of qualities of potassium or of the molecular structure of a leaf to give any kind of a meaningful answer.

I ask all kinds of questions. I worry about the future. I wonder if the melting ice caps will submerge Bangladesh. I ask whether technology is making us more or less human. I ask why I still get sad some days, and why I hurt the ones I love. I try and figure out why I was born with such privilege and others into suffering and agony. Why am I scared of spiders? Will I get cancer? Will I be fat when I'm older? Have I achieved enough? Why am I here?

Our deepest and most heartfelt questions are constructed from the experiences that most affect us. Like skyscrapers on the horizon, they loom. Questions of love and fear, of suffering and purpose, overshadow our lives but sometimes it’s as if they are too big to confront and we get lost and look at our feet and ask small questions about the cracks in the pavement.

We should be bold in the architecture of our questioning

We should be bold in the architecture of our questioning and indignant in the design. Why settle for small questions when, if we have the courage, skyscrapers wait for us.

The life of Jesus has been a magnet for questions for over 2000 years. How did a carpenter executed by the Romans become the most famous man in history? Was Jesus even historically real? How can God be a man? How can this have any significance for my life?

The biblical accounts of Jesus’ life are littered with examples of people asking him questions, often in accusatory tones, and usually he responded with a question. One day Jesus asked this question of his friends: 'Who do you say I am?'

Tim May is the Head of Alpha UK. Find him on Twitter: @TGMAY.

Photography by Alex Douglas 

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Sheela's Story

Sheela's Story

The idea of running Alpha in the workplace honestly stemmed from a practical reason – late working hours were a barrier to my colleagues being able to attend Alpha at church. It made sense to bring Alpha to the workplace for those who were interested to give it a go.

I remember feeling quite nervous and unsure the first time we ran it back in 2014. I didn’t know what to expect or if anyone would even turn up! ‘Ye of little faith’ I remember a friend saying to me when we ended up with a solid group of about 20 in that first round. Since then, we’ve run Alpha four times - sometimes with larger groups, sometimes with smaller groups - but each experience has never failed to be just as amazing.

The most interesting aspect for me about running Alpha in our workplace was the immediate connection that people made from having something fundamental in common – where they work. There was little need for breaking the ice and discussions took off from day 1 with guests feeling comfortable sharing their thoughts and perspectives.

Alpha in the workplace complements what the church is doing by reaching out to a community that might not have been able to be reached. So many of us know that being out there in the corporate world trying to make it in the great rat race can get tiring and it’s only a matter of time before one begins to ask “Is there more to life that this?” – which is a question that was on the minds of our guests when they came. Alpha provided that safe space for conversations that might not have taken place otherwise.

The most memorable account from a guest for me comes from a guy who had attended our first ever run of Alpha. Post-Alpha, he told us that while was hesitant initially about the whole idea, eventually the weekly sessions became a place of refuge for him in the busyness of work. He said that it was a truly unexpected experience - “Work is what I had associated with stress and a lack of peace but through Alpha, work became a place I found hope, peace and faith.”

It’s not smooth sailing all the time but it is stories like this and many more of that nature that remind me that even if it’s for one person each round, it’s still worth it. And I’d just love to encourage anyone who’s thinking about it to just give it a go! The training and material make the process really simple to get started. Your adventure of a lifetime in running Alpha is just around the corner… trust me, it’s worth it!

Work is what I had associated with stress and a lack of peace but through Alpha, work became a place I found hope, peace and faith.
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