Possibilities from, Consequences of, Asking Questions

Good Morning! (Morning for me thus I invite you to a morning’s thinking, an environment of coffee if you like, and with luck sunshine and birdsong!)

Stream of consciousness style at this point – we’ll see.

Awoke to internet radio presentation: “Unzipping Reality” (Leah LaChapelle) – Community Listening Network, her thoughts also available in a book under same title.

Her topic: I’ll say it’s “How to make a difference conversationally.”

Much of the time I very much appreciate her thoughts, her descriptions of how each can make a difference toward overall humanity’s uplifting. Sometimes I become irritated due to her reliance on “thought creates reality” in terms of personal change. I believe in this ‘truth’ in theory. I appreciate it’s teaching , except I am personally ‘caught’ in problematic material circumstances which have arrived in significant part through the agency of others.

So human to human choice/behavior as it alters experience of others enters the picture. My own circumstances hold me fast to awareness of the “social/political” nature of our human doings. And to some extent, it seems clear that not only are we “all in this together”, our way out also requires “all of us together” extricating ourselves from where “we are”.

Where are we? We are in a mess! A Human Quandary! By imagination, by extension, I can quickly shift to “problematic material circumstances” of another and – bingo! – understanding of the experience! If I draw on Maslow’s Hierarchy, a bunch of humanity is right down there at the bottom of the pyramid level – not yet assured of reliable food, clothing, shelter, (medical access in the US and many parts of the world) – for a nifty interactive map of world health care see http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2009/08/health/map.health.global/index.html – hope the link remains active. But my intended point includes food, clean water, shelter.

Access to Maslow’s bottom line essential needs is a long time coming for these folks. Do we assign to these folks the task of the teachings “you make your own reality”? Do we really wash our hands of our own involvement so quickly, so easily?

But IF we agree that we are all in this together, that we have brothers and sisters living in urban and rural extreme life-threatening material circumstances around the globe, and within our own borders – what do we do about it? What is one individual’s responsibility, what are one individual’s strategies to help bring about a shift? What can one individual do to awaken a sense of interest (and eventually willing response-ability) in others?

Well, according to Leah LC, one thing it’s best we not engage in, is “being right”, as in making firm and “closed to discussion” statements that preach and harangue. Nobody listening (or reading) wants to be told she/he is behaving without concern for others. A whole lot of folks go through each day offering kindness to individuals in their spheres, and consider themselves to be fairly considerate and compassionate – “thank you very much”!

And it’s true! A whole lot of folks indeed practice general, daily, consideration toward others. So we don’t want to lose that. The premise in a lot of minds of a lot of folks who are genuinely good-hearted (but inactive toward larger scale improvement a la social/economic/political shifting) is also known to be sound: the premise is – “I can only be available to others to the extent that I have first assured my own needs are met.”

(And they go beyond material basics in this – included beyond material basics are spiritual needs (taking time for spiritual renewal); personal social needs (taking/making time for watching a movie with friends, attending a family/friend gathering), and enhancing ones material basics (a dishwasher, a big screen TV, a new carpet are enhancements.)

Truth, validity, to all that – to the ‘need’ to meet all those ‘needs’ beyond the most basic; to having ones own self and ones family in a ‘secure’ enough ‘place’ that energy is available to “spill out” toward great need elsewhere.

But it’s all relative, there are no clear definitions. At one extreme is martyrdom, giving up pretty much everything to pitch in on behalf of ones much less fortunate brothers and sisters. At the other extreme is amassing great wealth, traveling the world in style (to get to know what’s out there), coming to know high-rollers to effect change from within, and so on.

But we are advised not to be preachy when laying out these observations.

How does one generate more questions – that’s one of my questions! How does one inspire more questions within the minds of those who are generally inactive toward a social/economic/political shift that would bring more equitable distribution of resources? How does one inspire self-challenging questions that might nudge inaction toward action? How does one do this with compassion and respect for the nudgee?

How does one raise, inspire, questions without creating rigid resistance – a common response to being ‘pushed’? How does one “manipulate” (that’s what we’re talking about here) without becoming a “manipulator”?

I guess subtle and sneaky advertising ploys are out – if we want to remain somehow “pure” in our own motivation.

Hmmm … just stuff to ponder. I am just now remembering a technique that I was always pleased to recall as a teacher, and have found useful. (But I regularly forget it’s usefulness and resort to attempts to use reason and logic to persuade.)

The technique is to ask questions aloud. To formulate – to frame – questions and “toss them out there” without necessarily intending instant conversation. Just ask the question. Plant it. Make it available to a mind that may not have previously thought it – or may have thought it and ceased trying to find an answer – or thought it and dropped it on the spot.

The scary part is that many already have answers. If we ask aloud: I wonder why it is that so many across the land (or globe) don’t have access to clean water? Answers may vary from “They stupidly live where this is the case”, to “They stupidly did not provide themselves with sanitation and have ruined their own water”, to (big sigh), “Yes, isn’t it a shame, and it’s the way of the world.” (… to that most unfortunate “They must want it that way, or it would not be so.”)

Question raised. Question answered. Case closed.

So maybe it’s the wrong question.

How about: “I wonder how modern corporate capitalism is really supposed to work on behalf of the deeply impoverished?”

Well, in my experience, the response to that kind of question might be everyone leaving the room, or everyone going back to what they were doing. The question is given a silent treatment.

Or is it? Does such a question ‘park itself’ in the mind of a listener? Does the listener return to it in his/her own time and carry the wonderment a bit farther? Is this a “nibbling” approach to creating more interest in how our world presently operates vs how it might?

Hmmm – just stuff to ponder!

Am thinking now that a possible follow-up to the above scenario of ‘question raised .. case closed’ would be to say: “I wonder why people would do that? Why would they be so stupid?” … and if more ‘case closed’ responses are offered … to follow these with more “I wonder why that would be so?” phrased questions … and to keep it up. (Until that group or individual leaves the room – but maybe with seeds sowed!!)

How to inspire questions. Two possible approaches: 1) ask questions aloud and keep asking ‘next level’ questions regardless of ‘closed case’ answers; and 2) ask questions in the first place that drive a little deeper and might ‘seed’ further questioning even in the minds of those who appear to show no interest, to not have heard.

Hmmm – I guess anyone who wants could decide to explore “asking questions” for a week or so and see what happens! Maybe as much as we need whole-scale meditation groups sending positive energy out into the universe, we need a whole lot more dropping questions aloud anywhere we can work them in.


Happy Questioning!



About maggieannthoeni

A description once given of me was "rooted in the earth while roaming the stars" - and this has felt 'right'. I believe in something akin to this for each of us. I am a passionate supporter of discovering the autonomous self while serving the whole as primary intent. I believe in discovery of innate principles, clearing the overlay of socialization that obscures this from us. I believe it is our responsibility to leave no one behind - most particularly to respond to suffering as best we can whereever we find it, whenever we are made aware. I believe in this for the insect as well as the most magnificent form of humanity. I believe in brother/sisterhood without boundary. I believe in righteous indignation when it is appropriate, but do not believe in an enemy. I believe in consciousness, in intelligence, in logic, in rationality, in emotion, in transcendence - and am convinced until we generally practice explore and honor all this in ourselves, we remain profoundly immature. (I believe real maturity is known and practiced by many young children, and not enough adults!)
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3 Responses to Possibilities from, Consequences of, Asking Questions

  1. Isadore says:

    Who … is Maslow? …

    My … question.. for today.

    • maggieannthoeni says:

      Maslow: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs We explored implications of this in education, based on agreed general validity. I remembered it more as a ‘hierarchy of maturation’ (as needs are met, the individual expands capacity to relate to a larger world and in the end is emotionally “self-sufficient/mature”, free of need for socially confirmed sense of personal identity. Not sure I had it the way Maslow intended; was surprised to learn how valued the model became for advertising!

  2. Isadore says:

    Asking how modern corporate capitalism is really supposed to work on behalf of the deeply impoverished is akin to asking how throwing a pail of gasoline on a fire is supposed to put it out…the answer simply is that it is NOT supposed to work on behalf of the deeply impoverished, never has and never will! Capitalism is capitalism whether modern or ancient its the same ism and it doesn’t give a damn about the impoverished be they mildly or deeply so. I suspect this may not be the answer one who believes corporate capitalism can somehow work on behalf of the impoverished wants to hear but like it or not it’s the best answer I can give.

    “Good questions are more important than good answers.” (Guy Landry)

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