Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer. —Rainer Maria Rilke
Recently I reunited with a longtime friend, an astronomer, who during high school endeavored to school me in the stars. In an email to him years ago, I lamented that I’d long forgotten what he’d taught me. What mattered most, he wrote back, was not what I remembered, but maintaining a sense of wonder when I looked into the sky.
While I still have difficulty committing fact to memory, wonder is an old friend. The mysteries of the world, both without and within, fascinate me. I’m certainly amazed by scientific and technological advances—just think, a century ago radio was in its infancy and TV, satellites, computers, and cell phones had yet to be invented. It’s mind blowing to think of what we’ve learned and created in a relatively short time!
Yet, I question how much we can reasonably know with any certainty. As human beings, we start with a limited vision, seeing the world through a pinhole view formed by our physicality, our unique makeup, our environment, our upbringing, our worldview.
Scientific advances can astonish, yet there is still such a vast amount we don’t know, leading us to constantly refine and revise research findings. While answers are satisfying, it’s the enduring questions—the intangibles of life, like love—that I find alluring. When I dive into mystery—whether through writing, noticing aspects of the world around me, or having a lingering conversation—I surface, often aware my dive has taken me to a surprising place, with questions still intact.
There is something about floating in wonder that invites me to lighten up on myself and others, to be moved by both the familiar and that which is beyond my understanding. Living the questions themselves, as Rilke points out, can transform us, take us deeper into ourselves and help us stay more open to others.
In a world where we are more and more polarized by our attachment to beliefs, views, stereotypes, and status, living into mystery, into questions, calls us to open to different ways of seeing, nurtures a quality of presence that is curious, flexible, playful.
What if we asked each other questions about what shapes and moves us, what gives us energy, how we heal, what we love and why? What if our conversations were based on a yielding to the mystery, to open questions rather than those that encourage fixed responses and dualistic views?
I live for moments when mystery quietly calls me from a distance that is so close, yet unreachable, transcendent. Its whisper draws me back from the rigidity of my views and returns me to a state of wonder.
Roselle Kovitz, a member of Fetzer’s social media team, is a writer and communication consultant who lives in Seattle.