loading animation, pen stirring a mug

JUN 2020

Pen & Mug

The Sacredness of Questioning Everything

Is your mind open to the possibility that, maybe, you have it all wrong?

For me, like so many, this year has been a time of reevaluation, introspection and growth in just about every area of my life. I've had blinders removed and rugs ripped out from under me, and I'm developing a new appreciation for how much I do not know.

As a result, my curiosity is wandering down all kinds of new paths. I've been reading/listening to more non-fiction and personal growth-type material than ever before, and I'm finding it all fascinating.

I am currently in the middle of listening to the audiobook version of David Dark's The Sacredness of Questioning Everything. The book focuses on modern religion, but defines "religion" very broadly as whatever it is that you spend the bulk of your time, energy and resources "worshipping".

“Show me a transcript of the words you’ve spoken, typed, or texted in the course of a day, an account of your doings, and a record of your transactions, and I’ll show you your religion.”

– David Dark

I'd call the book "philosophical," aiming to debunk myths and challenge dangerous ideas from all areas of life in an effort to bring people closer together.

If the idea of something like that makes you feel more curious than defensive, I STRONGLY recommend giving this book a read/listen.

If your reaction to this idea is "Yes, people who disagree with me SHOULD be more open to my way of thinking," try to catch yourself. You're probably right, but you probably need to open your mind a bit, as well. Hear their perspective, try on someone else's shoes, and be willing to wrestle with a few of your own questions as well instead of locking them away. No fundamental "truth" or "fact" should be afraid of questions. Questions and research only make facts stronger. Everything else is lived experience, and as Dark says, "I want us to keep ourselves on the hook of remaining awake to complexity and to the value of people."

Here are a few more compelling excerpts from the book to whet your curiosity:

"Imagine letting go of your psychic burden of imagined certainty and assume the mantle of mere human. Relating and questioning ourselves might just be possible." If you put forth "the pretense of certainty [...] honest confusion becomes a source of shame and a sign of weakness."

"Playing at absolute confidence often rewards us in life, but the pretense and mind games are corrosive to the possibility of community, friendship, and redeeming love."

"Monologuing has to stop for a dialogue to begin."

“There’s a whisper of revolution whenever people really speak to one another and really listen.”

“I want very badly to challenge the ease with which we succumb to the false divide of labels, that moment in which our empathy gives out and we refuse to respond openhandedly or even curiously to see people with whom we differ. As I see it, to refuse the possibility of finding another person interesting, complex and as complicated as oneself is a form of violence. At bottom, this is a refusal of nuance, and I wish to posit that nuance is sacred. To call it sacred is to value it so highly that we find it fitting to somehow set it apart as something to which we're forever committed. Nuance refuses to envision others degradingly, denying them the content of their own experience, and talks us down tenderly from the false ledges we've put ourselves on. When we take it on as a sacred obligation, nuance also delivers us out of the deadly habit of cutting people out of our own imaginations. This opens us up to the possibility of at least occasionally finding one another beautiful, the possibility of communion. [...] It could be that there's no communion without [nuance].”

– David Dark

Click to view The Sacredness of Questioning Everything on Amazon.

in hand-drawn letters: I AM A WORK IN PROGRESS

Pen & Mug

(The opinions expressed in this letter are Austin’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of everyone else associated with Pen & Mug, even though Austin clearly has very excellent taste.)

Pen (& Mug) Pals?