Always the More Beautiful Answer Who Asks the More Beautiful Question

There is a gentleman in this world who some say is a shaman.

Some people say he uses coyote tricks for his own purposes in our culture that he picked up in other lands.

Some say he’s the son of a Baptist preacher, therefore his perspective of faith is understandable.

Others say, only because he studied healing cultures in other lands did he come to the faith treasured by his family of origin.

He’s recounted things I can’t imagine. I sat in the audience one day where he was sharing metaphysical secrets of Eastern mysticism he had been granted after being anointed as someone special.

He detailed a story where he visited an indigenous culture in a remote African area only to hear that the tribe received visions while around a fire. They told of a rope descending from heaven, a man in white descending the rope and delivering the message to all who were around the fire that there was One God who had One Son who came to save the world…and that they should have joy because of this news

It’s no wonder that one of his many books is entitled, “The Bushman Way of Tracking God: The Original Spirituality of the Kalahari People.”  He’s a psychotherapist, an ethnographer and a cybernatician.

In other words, Bradford P. Keeney is an interesting character.

And, today after a long week of work, and a long day of faculty meetings, I retreated to my office.  I began to search the collection of books on my shelves and finally found what I was looking for.  I needed to read a bit of Keeney because I was struggling with a way to help influence change in a stuck system.  Finally, on the fourth shelf I checked, lodged between “The Kite Runner” and “Primal Leaders,” I found it:  Aesthetics of Change, by Bradford P. Keeney, 1983.

Yes, I was in need of some coyote tricks, and I knew just the writer to help me.

So I opened the volume, but I never got past the preamble of pages that come before the text.  I had what I needed and I never read a word he wrote.  There on a blank page, resting high center were two quotes.  The first was by Jorge Luis Borges and read, “I leave to the various futures (not to all) my garden of forking paths.”

Okay, THAT quote was filed in the safety deposit box of my right brain and flagged for follow up.  I wasn’t ready to talk about gardens.  I needed to talk about people…who can be gardens, but who were not currently considered that way in my present state of mind.

The second quote was by e.e. cummings and stopped me short: “Always the more beautiful answer who asks the more beautiful question.”

When my brain reads grammar that doesn’t come easily, it goes into a loop.  And that’s what happened with cummings’ words.  I read the quote thrice more.  Then I decided I needed to study the nature of questions, answers, people and beauty…so I began to do research.

And when I found the following excerpt I quit looking.  Some beautiful soul had done thinking long before me about questions and answers and come up with enough thoughts to shift my focus from change that needed to take place in others…to the more relevant “change that needs to take place in me.”

And so I’m sharing her words, arrived upon through a struggle, via Keeney and with cummings as a conduit.  I hope they are useful for your beautiful answers and your life as a question…looking for answers.

Maggie, who goes by Mudsy, who lives in Virginia wrote:

This quote from E. E. Cummings is one of my favorites.  E. E. Cummings was a master of using the “wrong” parts of speech in both his poems and prose.  He often used nouns as verbs, verbs as nouns, adverbs as nouns, etc.  His punctuation at times seemed random, but often in the midst of reading one of his poems suddenly it becomes clear why he used a certain piece of punctuation in his “incorrect” way.

If you’ve never read the quote before, stop and read it again, and answer this question:

Who is the “who” referred to in the quote?

The “who” is “the beautiful answer”, right? — thus this quote is saying that the person who asks a beautiful question somehow is or becomes the beautiful answer.  The beautiful answer is a person, not an idea, a plan, a concept, or a strategy.  My big search in the larger community of faith today is not for those who are offering all the answers, not for those who have the most powerful strategies or ideas, but for those who are asking beautiful questions.

By “beautiful question” I wish to make it clear that I don’t mean using beautiful or flowery language in the formation of the question (and judging by E. E. Cummings poems, I don’t think that’s what he meant either).  Rather “beautiful” here means something that deeply resonates and touches the center of human existence.  For instance, when I see a homeless person begging on the street, his very existence can be a beautiful question I ask of myself or God or both.  If I do not ask the question, I never materialize as the beautiful answer.

The beautiful questions are the hard questions that many are afraid to ask.  They are the questions for which many are ready with pat answers, but the really beautiful questions do not have easy answers.  Instead, the answers often lead us to other hard questions.  For instance, at times when I have experienced the greatest and most profound suffering, those who comforted me the most were not those who quoted scriptures to me, or said “read your Bible more” or “pray more” or “Just trust God”, but rather those who let my hard question ring in the air unanswered, and even entered the question with me, and let themselves feel the full weight of what the question was asking.  In this way, they themselves became a beautiful answer for me that somehow enabled me to make sense of my pain, perhaps not intellectually, but in my depths.


The remainder of this post I excerpted can be found here.


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Best, Red Dirt Kelly




4 thoughts on “Always the More Beautiful Answer Who Asks the More Beautiful Question”

  1. Was led back to looking at your post again this morning. Soon I’ll have a bit more time to think write more on this (when a certain long and complex paper is written in simple, clear concise language)… but in coming here today, I realized that the quote as quoted in this post is not the same as what I have read in e.e. cummings. Went back to the original source to be sure. It may be there are two e.e. cumming’s quotes, and if so I would love to find the other one, but the one I am referring to is “Always the beautiful answer who asks a more *beautiful* question.” (emphasis mine). The quote as quoted said “… who asks a more difficult question.” I think that often the “beautiful questions” are indeed the “difficult questions,” but they also may be in some ways the “simple questions” (simple like a child, not simple like lacking profundity). Just my further musing in running across this again today.

    1. Maggie – you are RIGHT. How is it that a narrative takes a turn or twist and becomes a completely new musing? I love that you wrote back and corrected the broken DNA of the quote…and began to heal it! I’m so glad you have further musings…RDK

  2. Hello there, “Me” Maggie from Virginia. Glad we could provide a welcome diversion. If it was welcome, it was probably needed. Have a good weekend…RDK

  3. Hi, it’s me, Maggie from Virginia. Thank you for your lovely words about my ramblings. It always does come down to “the change in me” doesn’t it?

    I’ve got a new blog address, not coincidentally now called “Beautiful Question” (link is on the original page you link to).

    Thanks again for your kind words, and I find myself quite intrigued by your project here. Hope to take a closer look as soon as I finish a project I am working on today. Which I got to get back to now, but seeing this post was a welcome and encouraging diversion.


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