Are You The Question?

It Will Not Go Away

questionAmid the jokes, cake eating and general joviality of marking the fortieth year of my birth, below the surface of my smiles a question kept popping up in my head – begging my attention. Everyone reassured me that these will be the best years of my life and I believed them as these were people who had, as the saying goes, “been there, done that.” Why then was this question nagging me?

Frankly, nothing had changed in my life physically up to that fateful day –  February 15 – when I turned forty. Nevertheless, it felt as though everything had changed. The changes had to do with the question that had been like a mite, quietly but intently eating away at my hesitancy to respond.

If ever there was a “preacher” who reached me, then I would have to admit that he was an aging, Caucasian man. His name is John Shelby Spong. I met him now almost two decades ago in Jamaica. We spoke one-on-one for about ten minutes and that conversation, combined with his books and lectures that I attended, had such a profound impact on me. However, it is the ten-minute conversation that I will always remember and cherish.

Whether “Jack” Spong, retired Episcopalian Bishop, originated this‘thing’ he unknowingly implanted in my heart, I do not know nor do I care. However, the ‘thing’ nagged me for over a week and had everything to do with what he said to me about my relationship(s) in and with the world. During our conversation, which I am sure he does not remember, he asked me, and I paraphrase – to think for a moment that I am the question that life is posing?

After he said that, I went to my many religious and spiritual books from around the world for tips.  For weeks, even months, I asked myself and readers to my first blog, to ponder this and invited them to ask themselves: “Am I the question?”  The aim was to understand whether we are the questions and if yes, then ask the follow-up one: How then shall we live?:

“Let all mankind be thy sect.”  (Sikhism) Adi Granth, Japuji 28, M.1, p.6

“ . . . For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” (Judeo-Christianity – NRSV) Isaiah 56:7

“The pebbles are the strength of the wall.” (African Traditional Religions) Buji Proverb (Nigeria)

(Source: Excerpts from Sikhism and African Traditional Religions taken from World Scripture: A Comparative Anthology (St. Paul: Paragon House, 1995) 186 – 189)

Question Everything

question“Question everything. Every stripe, every star, every word spoken. Everything.”

Ernest Gaines, novelist and author of The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, is credited with this quotation. This enterprise becomes extremely challenging when turned upside-down and you become the question. Yes, you are the question. You are not the seeker of answers but the question that life is posing to the world.

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Looking back, when first time suggested to me it went over my head, something that happened quite often when I was ‘young’ and awestruck by people, constantly comparing myself to those who seemed to be “better off” than we were. It was probably years after meeting Bishop Spong, re-reading his books, going through my journals from earlier years (something that I highly recommend), checking where I had been emotionally and what dreams were yet to come true that I came across the entry about the conversation and the suggestion.

You are the question that life is posing to the world.

“What?” I thought. “I don’t get this,” I said and continued reading an article about what to do when you win the lottery. The suggestion, however, obviously did not leave my consciousness. For some reason, I would not let it. It was tucked away, complied, hidden, waiting for the right moment to resurface. When it did, I would look at it again, considered it much as how one does a treasured dress or pants suit that is too small but you try it on anyway hoping by some miracle it would fit.

“You are the question.”

More time passed, more life-choices made and still this thought remained under lock and key, never really deliberated nor seriously considered. Certainly, life happens and you “go with the flow” and if you are like me, you ask “What is the purpose of this life, relationship, job, family member or crisis?” You pray for help and often enough you feel that your prayers are answered and when they are not, at least not in the way you would have liked, you do your own thing. God must have been too busy or simply does not understand your particular problem!

Still more time went by and the suggestion remained, patiently waiting for me to give it my “full hundred” – as we Jamaicans once loved to say. I gave it some thought but not the deep introspection that it required until one day I found myself unable to avoid the question.

questionYou Must Answer

“Are you the question?”

The trouble is, this question is just the tip of the iceberg. Say your response is “No, I am not the question,” you will then be confronted with “What are you then to the world, what is your purpose?” That starts a new hockey game (I live in Canada, people).

Answer, “Yes, I am the question to the world,” and I ‘warn’ you will be entering uncharted territory – one which is as frightening as it is exciting. Once you make such a response then you will need to answer this – “What is the question you are posing to the world?”

How you answer this will depend largely on how you see the world. To borrow the favourite saying of a popular Jamaican talk show host, the late Wilmot Perkins, if you see the world as made up of “tribes fighting for scarce benefits,” the question you may be posing to the world is: “How much can I grab for me and mine?”

  • If you see the world as a beautiful place, where people of different races, gender, religious beliefs, culture and sexual orientation can live a full and meaningful life, sharing equitably the natural resources the Creator has provided for all, you will pose a very different question.
  • We are all “pebbles” in this world, and anyone who has spent the length of time that I have walking on the shores of the ocean will know that they come in different shapes, sizes, colours and texture (and very much include the animal kingdom).
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You Are A Unique Answer As Well

questionIf the ‘wall’ of the world is to be strong, then all its pebbles are important. Each human being must be considered equal, despite and in spite of racial, cultural or religious differences, whether they are man or woman, gay, straight or bisexual, white, yellow or black.

If you see the world as a beautiful place, where animals and other creations are an integral and valuable part, other than food to eat or resources to profit from, then the question that you are will be: “How am I being in, caring for, sharing and building this world?”

With the deep desire to be this second question, to live in true community, seeing all humankind as my sect and to build a house of prayer for all, I decided many years ago to live the message that Bishop Spong teaches: “Live fully, love wastefully, be all that I am capable of being.”

What is your question to the world?

Claudette P Esterine

This was originally posted to my first ever blog in 2005. It is revised and republished here today as the question that I am continues to be posed to the world and my wish to share with and support you consciously be the question in your world. When you become a member of this community, you receive a daily update of these posts as well as Weekday Wisdom© to be the question that you are. You also get my monthly free newsletter right in your inbox so sign-up today!

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36 thoughts on “Are You The Question?

  1. […] favourite preacher man, Bishop John Shelby Spong, put it best – “You are the question,” and at this midway point in my life,  I have wondered what is the question I am posing […]

  2. Try to see ourselves as a big picture. Keep learning and growing

    1. Ms Claudette

      Agreed. 🙂

  3. Love love love your post. I have so many questions and your post inspired me to get answers. Some times i feel disappointed for not getting answers, but i can i find out answers.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Sometimes no answer is the answer Urvi! I am glad that the post supported you along the way. Namaste. 🙂

  4. I believe God gives us each a purpose for being here. I also believe that regardless of how much we accomplish in life, we will always feel lack if we do not acknowledge our need for a spiritual connection to our creator. Taking it one day at a time and enjoying as much as possible makes it so much easier.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Thanks for sharing that Chanelle! We all make a connection that sustains us and most certainly taking things one day at a time is one way of getting there. 🙂

  5. Amazing written. So important topic, I enjoyed reading this.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Thank you for reading Lexie! 🙂

  6. Every one of us has to do their part. we are all part of it and we must work together to make it better.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Amen to that! 🙂

  7. I’m but one puzzle piece in the big puzzle of life. It takes all of us to make the puzzle complete and successful, so I have to do my part.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Could not agree with you more Liz! 🙂

  8. I really love this post. I enjoy reading it and i will save this

    1. Ms Claudette

      Thank you Nicole and I am happy you find it useful. 🙂

  9. this was a very interesting read for me. at my first i thought maybe i’m not the question maybe i’m the answer. i don’t know why i thought that but i did. then i thought more and realized that by assuming i would be some kind of an answer is wrong because I believe that Jesus was/is the answer. so now i am going to do some deep thinking on what my question is and if it is me what do i do going forward. hope this makes sense i’m still processing 🙂

    1. Ms Claudette

      It pleases me no end that this post has drawn you into such deep thoughts! Love it and welcome to this “questioning” space. 🙂

  10. Elizabeth O.

    I’m reading here thinking to myself why I never realized this before. Learning and improving is what we’re good at and indeed we are the answer to our own question.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Amen Elizabeth, amen! 🙂

  11. We all change as we grow older and I do love and very much agree with “question everything”

    1. Ms Claudette

      It most certainly “deepens” our living, does it not. 🙂

  12. You know what I think you are right, we are the question and I am constantly questioning to make myself grow as a person.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Yes! Spot on Ana, spot on! 🙂

  13. Well written article…My question to the world can we let go our generational pain and move forward together as one? Only then we can heal!

    1. Ms Claudette

      And, as I asked someone else, where have your or are you posing that question and what have been the responses?

  14. It’s so important to continue to learn and grow. I agree we should question everything. That is how we learn. I tell my son the only wrong question is the one we do not ask.

    1. Ms Claudette

      That is very sound advice, Jonathan! 🙂

  15. I try not to question the whys of my being here, I get to worked up. I try to concentrate on Gods love and sharing it.

    1. Ms Claudette

      It is not necessarily you questioning the why’s of being here but I understand what your feelings. 🙂

  16. Wonderfully written. Liked the post.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Thank you and thank you! 🙂

  17. My question to the world is when are we going to grow up and realize that we are to be kinder to each other?

    1. Ms Claudette

      Great question. Where have you posed it and what have been the response so far? 🙂

      1. I ask of anyone who will listen but what I find are more questions than answers because many are asking the same thing

  18. Robin Rue

    I think we are ever changing and growing. As long as we continue to learn and grow, we are doing alright.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Indeed we are Robin! 🙂

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