questions, live the questions, live the questions now, Rilke, uncertainty, be brave, courage

Live the Questions

I am no different than you—asking questions. Wanting answers. Needing to understand how it is all unfolding before me. Now. Impatient and occasionally impertinent when the answers do not arrive.

Then I think of Rilke’s quote, which I came across as a teenager. It gave me SO much comfort then, and it still washes over me warmly, soothing my pain for not knowing, reminding me that not knowing is part of being human and a necessary, immutable fact of our existence.

“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 to 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, Letter Four (16 July 1903)

As impatient as I can be, it’s also a freaking relief. I don’t have to know everything. There’s a point to living the questions.

But we don’t wait. As Rilke said, “Live the questions now.” Accepting that we don’t know for now is not a passive process.

We ask, expecting an answer, and we live like we truly want to know, having faith that the answers will come to us some day. And we keep asking.

And while we live those questions, we do our best with the uncertainty of life. Knowing deep inside that our best is good enough.

Thanks for listening.

Have a Beautiful day!


p.s. From my Archives:

Learning to Practice “Slow.” 2017

How We Harm Our Patients With the Need to Be Certain (and Right). 2017.

Karyn Shanks MD


Karyn Shanks, MD, is a physician who lives and practices in Iowa City. Her work is inspired by the revolutionary science of Functional Medicine, body-mind wisdom, and the transformational journeys of thousands of clients over her twenty-eight year career. She believes that the bones of healing are in what we do for ourselves.

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