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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