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The Questions We Ask Ourselves

“Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart… Try to love the questions themselves… Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given 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 answers.”
—Rainer Maria Rilke

It took me a long time to learn it, but the questions we ask ourselves are at least as important as the answers we come up with, often more so. And our deepest questions are the ones Rilke writes about — questions that cannot be answered right away but can only be “lived into” over the long haul. These are the questions that shape our lives, so we should choose them with care.

Night is coming on in my part of the world, and I just re-read this beautiful poem by Jeanne Lohmann as a way of reviewing my day. I was happy with my answers to some of her questions, not so much with others.

First thing in the morning, I’ll read the poem again. If I live tomorrow with some of its questions in mind, who knows? Maybe tomorrow night I’ll find that I took at least small steps into better answers…

Questions Before Dark
by Jeanne Lohmann

Day ends, and before sleep
when the sky dies down, consider
your altered state: has this day
changed you? Are the corners
sharper or rounded off?

(Excerpted from The Light of Invisible Bodies. Read the full poem here.)

(Jeanne Lohmann is one of my favorite poets. At age 91, she’s still writing beautifully. Her books can be found on Amazon. I recommend all of her work, not least her 2012 collection, As if Words, and her 2013 collection, Home Ground.)

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