Better Questions? Better Guides? Questioning as I Go a bit Farther Down the Valley of Suck

We don’t know what we don’t know.

Maybe it is because I’m getting older and the lessons of the years seem to be more pronounced, but it seems with each passing day, I am more aware of what I do not know.  There was a time when I was younger I hoped to be an “expert” on something.  

In her book, “Real Power,” Janet Hagberg talks about how our human understanding of power goes through stages.  At stage three in the process, we come to understand power through symbols.  Those symbols can be in the form of titles, cars, homes, size of your corporation, where your office might be located, any number of things can determine what you determine to be power.

But...that is ONLY stage three.  In Hagberg’s study of power, there are SIX stages, not THREE.  Yet, in our world, stage three appears to us as the top.  There has been an avalanche of articles about Hugh Hefner following his death, and he, among many others through history to the present, can be seen to have achieved this understanding of power...and gotten stuck there (here is one of the more thoughtful editorials I have found).  

Celebrities, corporate elitism, elected officials, managers, employees and, yes, clergy can find ourselves achieving and even reveling in these positions of power and influence thinking we have attained something with which to say we “made our mark,” in the world.  It is interesting to notice how this process can consume us though.  Article upon article, book upon book, lecture upon lecture, those who achieve power counsel those seeking this same power, to “surround themselves with winners!”  If the only knowledge we seek is from those who have only gone part way on the life journey, just what have we gained? Isn't that like playing only two-quarters of a four-quarter game?

Thankfully, there are other voices who managed to achieve enough of this power to recognize it needs only be one more step on the road to something far more valuable, a power worth more than things.  There is more to seek in this life than notoriety and celebrity and fleeting positions of power.  When we achieve these most sought-after positions of power, they are only temporary for eventually, someone is going to replace you.  Someone new will be elected, a new revolution will occur or the mantle will be passed by retirement or appointment.  
There are many who have seen and commented before and offer us better advice. There are true spiritual directors who journey with us and help us listen for God's Spirit.  In reading the other day I came across these words of guidance,

“Learn to walk this upward path of wisdom.  Pursue God in all things with an open heart, ready to be taught, ready to follow.  As you practice wisdom, you will notice a change in your soul. You will go beyond seeking right understanding and will pass into the place in spirit where you are simply a friend to God - a friend, I say, whose life is under the wise care and direction of the King and Ruler of all.” - Clement of Alexandria

We don’t know what we don’t know because we fail too often to listen to those who know what we do not.  I find that my journey through the valley of suck, this road which grief has led me upon, is not a road that is unknown.  It is a path neglected and ignored but there is deep wisdom here, and a place of purging and correction and redirection.  And it is here, I think C.S. Lewis pointed when he referred to the “deep magic” in The Chronicles of Narnia.  For suffering is the way of The Christ, the way of Immanuel (Isaiah 53).  I find there are few guides in our age who seem to know this path and if you can find them, they are rarely in the spotlight.  

I remember once asking a question of a teacher, “who are you reading and listening to for your growth?” It seems all the more pressing as I journey on.  Just who is guiding our guides? Who is teaching our teachers?  We may not know what we don’t know but we can surely ask better questions and seek better guides.

May I Ask: What are the better questions you are asking? Who are the better guides you are finding?

Library image from "New Old Stock"


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