A beautiful question
I recently finished reading Sarah Wilson’s This one wild and precious life, a book on climate change and activism. Her title comes from Mary Oliver’s poem, The summer day, which asks us to question what we will do to make the most of our brief, wonderful life.
Wilson’s book is full of a range of sources from conversations with the Dalai Lama, interviews with Bill McKibben, phone calls with Sister Joan Chittister, books from James Hollis. Her book alone could give you a reading list for a year, and she has many resources on her website here. She also wove in personal stories and accounts of her hikes through different parts of the world.
It would take me quite a few blog posts to discuss her ideas, so I’ll focus on just one. She quotes David Whyte, the Irish poet, who asks – but what is the most beautiful question here?
‘I’ve heard David explain that asking the more beautiful question (invariably the courageous one) delivers us the answer we seek. A question can often be laced with blame or rage. (‘Why did he do that to me?’ ‘Why won’t she just learn to recycle properly?’) But when we dig a few layers deeper to the more delicate, beautiful question (‘What need in me is not being met?’ ‘How can I better connect with this person?’), we find ourselves going to a kinder, more considered place in ourselves and each other.‘
Wilson also frames it this way later in the book when she quotes Jungian psychologist James Hollis who suggests asking:
‘by way of a technique for living a true life: ‘Does this choice enlarge or diminish?’ Now that is a beautiful question. Hollis added that in most circumstances, when we ask this question, we should know the answer immediately. We do, don’t we, when we’re brave enough to put things through this simple lens.
What is the most beautiful question you could ask yourself right now? Will your next choice enlarge or diminish?