The destructive power of 'answers'

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  • Stephanie

    The destructive power of 'answers'

    One of my biggest challenges as a Zen student and one of my most significant personality flaws is my passionate thirst for "answers."

    My first reaction to a new situation is to find words to frame what is happening, to analyze and find a satisfying overall "answer" not only to what is happening, but why it is happening. This is especially true when something riles my emotions. If I feel attacked, my best weapon is my answer, my damning conclusion toward whom or whatever I perceive as causing the emotion.

    Of course this requires many layers of delusion... first and foremost attributing the cause of my reaction to someone or something else, rather than my own conditioning. Most of my emotional pain comes from the conclusions I force out of situations, not the situations themselves. But I am addicted to those conclusions, I want them even at the cost of everything. The result is believing in a lot of
    things that are no more than opinion and conjecture, and taking those for truth.

    I think of the Lojong slogan: "Don't bring things to a painful point." I do this all the time. Even when every signal I could possibly receive from life is that I need to wait before things become clear, I still try to wring an answer or conclusion out of the moment. I want to know what I'm up against. The problem is that the conclusion of "what I'm up against" is something I've forced onto the situation. I feel satisfied that I've understood something when all I've done is kill whatever the something actually was with the mess of conjectures I've formulated.

    Sometimes a theory, or an explanation, is useful. Perhaps sometimes even necessary. But most of the time it isn't. Especially in our usual basic day-to-day stuff. We're not usually trying to build a better rocket or to stop the oil spill in the Gulf. We're usually just trying to make it through the web of relationship, to navigate the emotional waters of our connections with our friends, family, coworkers... and perhaps that is where this fierce hunger for answers is most destructive. In relationships, we lose our connection with others, say hurtful words, cause harm, out of our need to formulate an elegant explanation of why our emotions are someone else's fault.

    I feel fortunate even just to be able to see this a tiny fraction of the time... and come back to the sanity of admitting to myself that I don't know, and that maybe there really isn't even something to know, at least not in a way that can be put into words.
  • Seishin the Elder
    • Oct 2009
    • 521

    Re: The destructive power of 'answers'


    I completely know what you are speaking about! One of the things I have usually done in similar situations is to work out elaborate conversations; what another might say and how I would respond, so that I would always be on top of the situation. Invariably the conversation never happened or it went in an entirely other direction. I found I was not in a threatened or precarious position and that I had just spent a lot of time in a dark spot I needn't have been. What's wonderful is being able to see it for what it is.

    Gassho, and thanks always for your "convewrsations",

    Seishin Kyrill


    • Taigu
      Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest
      • Aug 2008
      • 2710

      Re: The destructive power of 'answers'

      Hi Stephanie,

      Answers...they provide a safe field as well as a cosy jail. You might know of this old vid...[/video]]

      Nothing wrong with our thirst for answers in a way, but it often shows how much we get stuck, stopping the natural flow. Chewing questions is a great way to be alive, to wake up and the answers we hunt put us back to sleep. In Zen, we answer with the total activity of our life, we answer with actions, objects and forms, colours and sounds, with silence too, we answer as an opening gesture, no grasping, getting, clenching, no more sizing or pocketting. We let as-it-isness answer. It is called not getting in the way. Not to obstruct. Once we become living questions, answers arise and vanish naturally, without sticking under our shoes.

      And the fact you notice already a great question, no need to turn it into an answer




      • Jinyu
        • May 2009
        • 768

        Re: The destructive power of 'answers'

        I was going to post the same video! Anyway, Thank you both for this thread!

        Jinyu aka Luis aka Silly guy from Brussels


        • Keishin
          • Jun 2007
          • 471

          Re: The destructive power of 'answers'

          Don't know who or where or when it was years ago someone once asked me
          with regard to relationships

          "Do you want to be happy or do you want to be right"?

          Whoever wherever that person is, my endless gratitude to them!

          Reminds me of that Jack Benny gag in which a mugger points a gun at him and says

          "Your money, or your life!"

          There is this long pause...the mugger asks "Well?"

          and Jack says "I'm thinking, I'm thinking!"

          answers have deconstructive 'powers' also