10 Questions That Have No Right to Go Away
By David Whyte
June 15, 2011
The thought-provoking poet David Whyte considers what we should be asking ourselves—especially when we least want to confront our own answers.
The marvelous thing about a good question is that it shapes our identity as much by the asking as it does by the answering. Nine years ago, I wrote a poem called "Sometimes" in which I talked about the "questions that can make or unmake a life ... questions that have no right to go away."
6) Am I too inflexible in my relationship to time?
In Ireland, where I spend a great deal of time, they say, "The thing about the past is that it isn't the past." Sometimes we forget that we don't have to choose between the past or the present or the future. We can live all of these levels at once. (In fact, we don't have a choice about the matter.)
If you've got a wonderful memory of your childhood, it should live within you. If you've got a challenging relationship with a parent, that should be there as part of your identity now, both in your strengths and weaknesses. The way we anticipate the future forms our identity now. Time taken too literally can be a tyranny. We are never one thing; we are a conversation—everything we have been, everything we are now and every possibility we could be in the future.
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