Asking THE Question That Cuts Straight Through The Confusion

You’ve been vacillating for a while. You don’t know what to do, and you tell yourself that by now you’ve thought of everything. Everything. Your friends and colleagues tell you you’re overthinking the damn thing. Some advise you to take a leap of faith. But you don’t. Because you don’t know and because you know that whatever you decide will have long-term plus unforeseeable consequences. You’re not a kid anymore.

The pain. You can barely tolerate not deciding, yet you can’t pull the trigger either. The pain of inertia, of spinning in a void.

You think, “OK, if only I turn over every stone. If only I ask every question and consider the matter from every single angle–then I’ll have everything before me so that I can decide.” Say you do that so that now you have everything before you. You see that A, B, and C speak in favor while X, Y, and Z tell against. Shit. You feel the weight of inconclusiveness as well as the immense pressure of being at wits’ end.

Modest suggestion: maybe your method(s) can’t but yield inconclusiveness.

Consider, then, a tack I sometimes take with conversation partners in my philosophy practice. Suppose you postulate that there could be THE question, the one that would allow you to plainly, clearly, and definitively see what the right thing to do is, the one that cuts straight through all the confusion and the noise, revealing scintillating clarity.

Of course, there may be no such question, but, come on, just play along for a moment–what if there were one and only one? And what if that one, just because it was precisely what you wanted to know, were, on its own, enough to make all the difference in the world?

If there were one, what–specifically–would it be? Remember, nothing is lost from postulating that there could be, and something big might be gained if you could find THE answer to THE question.

It is, you’ve guessed, a bit like asking one question of the Oracle of Delphi. Only, in this case you are the questioner asking your deeper intelligence to come forth with the answer.

Criterion for determining whether X is THE question: THE question should either immediately yield THE answer (it should fall directly off your tongue) or else it should yield THE way you can take to discover THE answer (which should fall off your tongue).

And what, in all else, might be gained? Certainty. Resolve. Peace of mind.