Monday, May 16, 2005

Good Questions

Gideon Strauss links to Jeremy, who asks some excellent questions:

What regularly (or most) tempts you to second-guess/abandon the principles/worldview you hold dearest, regardless of your belief system?

What makes you want to "give up?"

What's the most hope-less situation you can imagine finding yourself in?

What have you failed at so much that you've either quit trying or you go into that situation knowing you're going to fail?

What points of comparison do you use to make you feel better about yourself?

What are the things in your life that feel pointless, like a waste of time?

Do people really distrust preachers with facial hair?

I'm not sure if I ask myself these sorts of questions too often, or too rarely. I'll consult my wife on this issue and get back to you. In the meantime, the only question I can answer with authority is the last one. Yes, people really do distrust preachers with facial hair - unless they demonstrate artistry in some field unrelated to preaching.


DarkoV said...

These "Good Questions" can only come out of the mind of a strict Calvinist. Is there even an iota of a possibility of tepid Good coming out of answering any of these questions? Those who try to answer should not be near a body of water and they should most definitely not be tied to a block of cement.
However, if there are plans to thin out the population of your town, posting these q.'s should do the trick.

Scott said...

I have a stong tendency towards melancholia but reading that list makes me say, "Whoa Debbie Downer...go for a walk in the park or something!" I've discovered over the years that considering one's own flaws is important for growth, but only if you're celebrating your good qualities as well. Otherwise, it's just wallowing.

Whisky Prajer said...

Ouch. GS & J are certainly Calvinists; I'm certainly not, but I'm still attracted to the questions, and wonder why an atheist, or even a contradictions-embracing Buddhist, couldn't be as well. The first question reminds me of Spalding Gray's wonderfully engaging maelstrom of self-doubt. I'm thinking of his horrifying train-ride conversation with the military man in "Swimming To Cambodia", which (eventually) triggers Gray to wonder, "What if he's right, and I'm wrong? I call myself a liberal, shouldn't I be questioning eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeverything?"

Mostly, these questions appeal to me because I'm in the entirely predictable throes of midlife goofiness. If you're worried for me, DV, all I can say to reassure you is my path through this will not be the "orthodox" one. Cheers.

Whisky Prajer said...

Et tu, Scottus? Maybe I'm missing something here. If the cheerlessness you refer to is related to the bulk of text on either link, I have but one disclaimer: my usual approach is to scan-read and forget anything that doesn't resonate. In this case, the questions resonated (see above), so that's what I remembered and commented on.

Isolating the questions from their (Calvinist/Stoic) context doesn't depress *me* - yet. Maybe what I'll do is supply a few of my own considered answers. If I seem too glum to you, then please hail DV and stage an intervention!

jeremy said...

Maybe some explanation is in order? I don't know what makes a Calvinist "strict," so I won't pretend to answer that. I'm preaching this Sunday at a church that is not professedly within a Calvinistic tradition. My hope is not that I "get people" to ask these questions; rather, knowing that people struggle often with feeling hopeless, unwanted, lost-cause, and that so often these struggles are unwarranted, I want to be able to address those unwarranted struggles with hopelessness. I'm thinking most specifically of those who compare themselves to others who seem to be doing "spiritual work" while they're home packing lunches or in the cubicle beating themselves up because they don't see how they're doing "good" work. I ask these questions to better get a feel for the specific things that people struggle with as a way of anticipating objections, which is good rhetoric, Calvinist or not. For the record, I'm a generally joyful guy despite my occasional selfish lapses into over-self-analysis. The last thing I intend to do is to encourage paralytic navel-gazing. For what it's worth.

Whisky Prajer said...

Thanks for dropping by, J. If your site is any indication, it certainly backs up your "generally joyful" claim; it displays an enjoyable mixture of authenticity and mischief - keep it up!