Asking the next question

Theodore Sturgeon, science fiction great and an old friend, used to wear jewelry that bore his personal symbol. It was a Q with an arrow through it, and it meant “Ask the next question.” To Ted, “What if?” was the only question a science fiction author needed to ask.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about asking questions. Keeping the dialogue going.

A rabbi spoke to our class last weekend about how Jews argue the Talmud. To me, and I daresay most Christians, once a religious argument begins, it marks the end of a friendship and the beginning of a new religious splinter group. But the Jews have been doing it successfully for years. When I asked him about that, he said, “If you stop asking questions, if you stop the dialogue, then you stop learning.”

A thunderous comment.

I’ve lived a lot of years, and done it successfully. Therefore, I think I know how to do life pretty well. This was the hardest part of learning to live with a new husband, as he had done life pretty well, too, with methods that are different from mine. His methods, in fact, are just as good as mine, and many of them are superior. Over the years, I’ve come to understand that, acknowledge it and respect his ways of doing things, as he has come to respect my procedures.

But for many things, I have to say, I’ve stopped the dialogue.

What a larger world I would have if I continued to dialogue about things I seem to have made my mind up about! What mind-blowing things await me, if only I will listen instead of speak.

I heard “Listening is love” the other day. Bumper sticker philosophy to be sure, and yet…  I like to be listened to. I like my unconventional ideas to be heard. I like to talk about my religious beliefs, my ideas for social reform, my political opinions. I would like to change a few opinions around me, yet I am unwilling to have my opinions changed. 

The very definition of stopping the dialogue.

If I want to continue to learn, then I need to engage in the dialogue. Today, tomorrow, and forever. I need to be open to having my opinions changed if I want others to be open about changing theirs.

I need to remember that we’re all made differently by design. If we all believed the same thing, there would be nothing to talk about. We’re different so we can engage in the dialogue.

Good for us.

Let’s do it.

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2 Comments

Filed under Learning

2 responses to “Asking the next question

  1. Let the fisticuffs begin! With pine-scented, heavily-foam-padded gloves having pictures of little pink bunnies on ’em, of course.

  2. Susan Csikos

    I found this entry while randomly searching for someone who might have one of Sturgeon’s “Q” signature pendants for sale. His work deeply affects my outlook, even after all these years. Its great to have his example of scientific humility, the reminder to always be a student, even when one is a teacher.

    I’ve resisted for many years the urge to take a stand on things which I do not personally believe are proven, and while it has lost me some opportunities, it has also saved me endless grief and shame to be proven wrong, touting something I didn’t believe to begin with. And, once in a great while, it has paid off in allowing me to sincerely advocate with good conscience those rare things I do in fact find to be true. Such a gift.

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