Unanswerable questions

How do you know when a person has stopped growing—intellectually, emotionally, spiritually? One indication is that they stop receiving answers. Another is that they stop asking questions. The two are not the same. 

We receive answers only when we ask questions. But we can also ask questions that we are unable to answer. That’s why answers aren’t a good indicator of growth. In fact, I would posit that we don’t grow when we receive answers to our questions; we grow only when we ask questions which we cannot find a definitive answer for.

A question with an explicitly defined answer—”What is two plus two?”—doesn’t teach you anything. To change its status from asking to answered doesn’t require you to confront too many difficulties. But a question like “What is the meaning of my life?” forces you to deal with uncertainty, with fuzzy boundaries, with illusions and narratives, with intense conflict between different schools of thought, with your own un-knowledge. And even after wading through all of that, you’re still not going to come up with an absolute truth. The best you’ll manage is a relative truth that’s liable to change along with your circumstances and character.

So next time you look at your own life, or that of someone else, and try to figure out the rate of growth, go by unanswerable questions asked, not answers received.