“Problems that remain persistently insoluble should always be suspected as questions asked in the wrong way.”
– Alan Watts
That thought resonates with me as I think about my own humble and stumbling development as a teacher. After banging my head against ever more proliferate clusters of possible answers to a persistent teaching problem, I’m inevitably led back to re-think and re-frame the question at hand. In this return (retreat?) to the question itself often lies the discovery (or ‘uncovery’) of more appropriate, more realistic, and more ‘whole’ solutions. It’s a bit like finding your glasses or your keys only after calling off an exhausting search.
Where the real “development” happens, seems to me, is in the ability to stick with the question itself until it’s more surely ‘asked the right way’ before setting out on the quest for solutions. Rilke’s famous quote about ‘living the questions’ comes to mind here. After a while you warm up to the itchy, often uncomfortable irony of it. I’ve been noticing recently that I’ve NOT been feeling so comfortable this way; I’ve been running around trawling for answers more than settling into/puzzling out the questions.
The problem is, it seems, we’re (I’m) apt to see questions as things pointing out and away from themselves. Lots of them really are perfectly workable orders to go grab an answer ASAP, but I think plenty just wear that disguise. It can be hard to patiently wait and breathe and STAY there when a question seems to rise up and vigorously point into the distance and order you off. “GO DASH HITHER and SOLVE THIS!”, it yells. And in that crucial moment, we spin ’round and march. Maybe too quickly sometimes. Maybe very often?
(Sketch of Watts above from: here)