Pathei mathos

Pathei mathos.  Great questioning brings with it great peril, great disaster.  But it is not to be avoided for all that; even more, it need not fail to give the questioner a certain confidence, no matter how shaky his knees and how fumbling his resoluteness.  The questionability of all things, quicksand that it is and no place to stand, no sure place at least, gives us the confidence that grows out of liberation; for it is liberating, to see everything, even the clearest, bluntest and hardest things in our lives, as marked by a question, as ever leading out into the open-endedness of a question….  All the answers we could possibly give in relation to ourselves, all the definitions and charges of this or that, are all so many blocks along this road, this open road we are, along with all things.  Despite the horrors of certain of these answers, the shame, the prison of shame they might give the one labeled by them, the overall stagnation with which they infect the judged life, or the sense of being utterly lost, without the slightest signs to lead you back to anything recognizable, anything like a home or worth calling home; despite these and other horrors there is a comfort in having some answer, or some amount of answers, to the question of who and what we are and what, or who, all things are around us.  Rafts for the frothy waters, blankets for the frozen temperatures of analysis, shields for the winds and blows of doubt, an answer now and then has saved not just a good many of us, not just most of us, but all of us from the agony, the agonizing, the unacknowledged suffering that goes with asking a question, asking questions, and continuing to ask, despite answers.

            Not only peril and agony mark the road of questioning, however.  We have already said that a confidence, confidence rooted in liberation, rooted in the very movement away from a firmness of ground–so no confidence in something forthright as in an object, say a pole, a person or a god–this confidence of liberation is the gift given the questioner.  Not for his efforts, but by his efforts; for the only way of liberating, of truly liberating, is to soar with questions, to dig with questions, to demolish with questions and, if possible, create with questions too.  Questioning creates, we may say, insofar as it creates, is the condition and proper source of, this confidence; questioning is this confidence.  It is no small gift to the human who chances upon it or to whom it is bestowed, this confidence, this great questioning–whether accepted or not, no small gift.  But accepting it is one thing, refusing it another, and to accept to be confident questioningly seems the hardest of all maneuvers of the heart, hard because impossible, impossible precisely because questioning seems ever to poke holes and ram and batter and belittle confidence; for any structure of confidence it has ready its dismantling tentacles.  Impossible–so, despite the magnificence of the gift, magnificence verging into, becoming paradox, it remains a kind of agony, perhaps a deeper agony, to go through the world questioningly.  The joy of the confidence that is questioning, that is born and becomes of questioning, is also the agony of vulnerability, of being just as much one as none, of having nothing, no answers, no solace, no rest.  Questioning as joy must be equivocal in this way, ambiguous, since otherwise it would cease to be itself, questioning would be an answer as well as joy, like a rule to follow.  But questioning is questioning, questioning is the questioning of questioning, so it goes in and out of answers like garments or skins for a being with layers of skin, staying awhile–perhaps longer than ever imagined..!–on the raft of sorrow and complaining and drudgery, then moving on–for a quick or a long visit, no matter–to the bank of joy and cheerfulness, getting along with others and affirming things.  Questioning moves snakelike through all avenues, but at some points we rest our slithering and dart in a sharp line for the nearest prey to our desire to be satisfied, dart hastily, eagerly and hastily at some nearby tasty morsel.  Part of questioning’s–questionableness, its questionability, its twisting and making all sorts of self-devouring loops in this way!  Turning its back on itself in this way!  Questionable–indeed!  During some ages of its sinuous course, questioning makes us believe that it has all the answers….

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