Loving the questions, living our way to the answersBy Susan Gottfried, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Evergreen Community Charter School
Chief Communications Officer, Green Schools National Network
We spend our careers in education searching for answers, but should we instead focus on the questions?
Leah Mayor, Ph.D., an expert in the development of healthy and enduring communities, recently wrote about the needs of community-based work, including “building relationships, listening to new points of view, seeking a larger frame for understanding the questions, cultivating collaborative capacity, engaging new voices, and facing a very real fear that comes from not having all of the answers.”
That last phrase struck a chord, since I admit to having that fear, yet Mayor continues: “Perhaps the solutions to the complex problems that our communities face are best sought by giving up a search for knowing all of the answers and loving the questions. As Rilke said (and I’m paraphrasing), ‘Perhaps someday far in the future, we might gradually, without even noticing it, live our way into the answer.’”
As a goal-oriented school administrator, I was uneasy at first with the thought of giving up the search for answers and instead living our way into the answer. It seemed a bit unintentional – hopeful, but not ambitious.
However, as I reflected further, I began to understand that “loving the questions” might mean engaging in creative exploration, looking in places where we don’t necessarily expect to find answers, and rolling the problems over as we examine them for embedded opportunities.
As we work toward a green future of healthy sustainable schools, perhaps we might all benefit from occasionally living our way into the answer.