Where Answers Come From

Last night I took a walk and smelled the beginning of summer.

There's a particular evening when fireflies are out for the first time. Blend together enough rain and humidity and heat, and one night suddenly they're there, writing cursive just above the grass.

I went on a walk because I was lost in my head about whether or not I'm on the right path. I found myself full of worry wondering if I'm facing the right direction.

Ever been there?

Sometimes you're an entrepreneur questioning if your current focus is the right focus. Sometimes you're a friend or a lover or a son and you don't know how to best perform your role in the relationship moving forward. Sometimes you're working for someone else, building their vision, and find yourself uncertain about why you’re doing any of it.

So I went on a walk looking for answers. I've learned something about answers lately - they enjoy not coming from the same source. There's a paradox surrounding the search for meaningful insight; the harder we look the more difficult it is to find. This keeps us faithful. We might find one answer to hang onto for a moment, or one path leading to comfort and clarity, but those wells soon run dry.

I paused on my walk and leaned on the fence of the Texas State Cemetery. The fireflies were there too - lightning bolts between tombstones.

There, it occurred to me a desire for answers and guidance instigates a few important internal happenings:

We're filled with a desire to change

When we don't understand the why behind what we're doing, when we feel we've veered off course, or when our vision is blurry - we don't like it. So we're forced to pause and find our way back. This is a good thing. We don't like to pause and be honest with ourselves very often.

A recognition we have more wisdom than we realize

There's a gift that comes to those who ask the questions. If we get real quiet and listen, we'll be surprised how easy it is to untangle a thought knot. I'm a fan of putting this on paper - try it out. Write a question to yourself, then answer it immediately. I’m amazed at the clarity available to us when we have the courage to answer our own questions (more on this technique).

It occurs to us we might need someone's help

What a gift when we're so lost and confused we finally get over ourselves enough to realize wisdom is found in community. Reconnecting to a sense of belonging is definitely wisdom. Sometimes we need only to be reminded we're not the only one who feels the way we feel, other times we're actually provided with answers from others. Either way, connection guides us in ways we can't guide ourselves.

A realization we didn't need the answers as as bad as we thought we did

This one makes me angry. Yet I'm learning to see my desire for answers doesn't mean answers are necessary. Or important. A beautiful life unfolding before me with fireflies punctuating the night sky - sometimes that's the only answer I need.

What we really want when we're searching for answers is a meaningful and real connection to the deepening and widening story of our lives. When fully engaged in the journey, knowing the answer to the question du jour pales in comparison to the joy of improvising in each moment.

Wisdom comes to those who participate.

Answers come along the way - and never in the ways we wished they would.

I remained a bit longer looking out across the cemetery. The night held its warmth as the sky darkened. For a while I'd find a firefly and follow its path as long as I could, but after a few moments the light would go out and I’d be left staring at nothing. Yes, that's right, I reminded myself, it's a wider gaze that allows us to experience wonder.

And for those who experience wonder, answers begin to seem irrelevant.