The Mother of all questions: Rebecca Solnit

Early in this collection of essays essayist Rebecca Solnit tells a story.  She was just off a plane, interviewed on television during a book tour.  Her interviewer, a man obsessed with her lack of children.  As she puts it, “Instead of talking about the products of my mind, we should talk about the fruit of my loins, or the lack thereof.” What is this about?

Rebecca then moves on to discuss the way, some questions are asked to put you in your place.  To control and limit us.

This is an important point for me because I teach the importance of asking questions.  I do this because I understand questions as an Allan Key; a kind of magic opening tool.  Ask open questions, ask thoughtful questions, ask challenging questions and your life will open up.  But maybe it is not that simple.

Some questions seem designed to limit us:  The classic one is, “Who do you think you are?”  And it’s variant, “What do you think you are doing?” As if to say, don’t seek to grow or progress your world. Don’t rock the boat.  Don’t work to learn, how to: play guitar, run marathons, write books, speak clearly, build your business; don’t seek change; don’t grow.  Don’t do what ever it is that your central being wants.  And most importantly don’t seek positive change economically, politically and socially.  Don’t question power.

In Rebecca’s case her answer is,  to ask, “Why are you asking this?”  Although in other contexts she has used, “Fuck this” and changed the subject.  I think a silent, F… you; and then doing what you plan is appropriate.

Seek to open life, not close it.

Fair enough.

These thoughts are from and in response to Redecca’s essay, A Mother of all questions, published in her collection of essays of the same title.  I always buy and read Rebecca Solnit’s work when she publishes it.  She is that good. These essays challenge me.  In response: I think, learn and grow.  I encourage you to read her work.  Well worth the effort and small cost.



About sustainabilityandbeauty

My passion is telling the stories of possibility, seeking a sustainable and beautiful future. My training is in science, chemistry, environmental science and teaching.
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