Holding on to radical questions

What is a radical question? Why do I get drawn to them? Why do they frustrate me?

I have a radical question when I believe that the way we generally do something is not smart, that there is a better way to do it. But we stick to the old way of doing things just because we have been doing it that way for a long time, and it’s convenient to just continue. And just keeping it going that way takes so much of our energy that we don’t look at things afresh.

This state of affairs pains me, since it pulls my energies in other directions rather than focusing them on work I believe in, work that I believe is best for myself and the people I’m working with. It’s not just the idea of this waste of time and energy, there’s a real pain and frustration coming from the organism within. I feel that pursuing the radical question has the potential to make my work more of play, at the same time making it more useful for the people I’m working with. There’s a romantic notion of a more wholesome, happier life associated with the radical question.

Wherever you are, there will be some constraints which you have to accept as existential. Obviously you are not going to change the whole world! When you put on paper what are the constraints you are willing to work under to pursue your radical question, and what is the test to decide if it’s useful to hold the radical question within the constraints you have accepted, I think the radical question has the potential to become real and woven into your work. If it’s unrealistic you can drop the radical question and live with the status quo or look for another situation with a different set of constraints to pursue your radical question.

And either way you would have probably learnt a lot in the process.

4 thoughts on “Holding on to radical questions

  1. I remember reading somewhere in the ‘Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna’ an observation by him that if you do not try to find out what you really want to do you will end up as a slave of rich men. He was metaphorically presenting the confusion associated wtih the shedding of one’s ego. Shedding our ego should mean consecrating it for a higher purpose, and not subordinating it to other egos.

    There are areas where you are a master and the others listen to you. There are areas where you are not a master and you have to listen to others. One radical question that is common to all is about discovering which is which, and then developing the art of dealing with the two areas with two different sets of approaches.

    Freezing one’s approach is generally the root of our confusions. When we adamantly say that this is my approach, come what may, and mind is closed to everything else, it is difficult to get attached to radical questions. Then in the attempt to find an average approach that suits all situations one lands up in one that doesn’t suit any situation properly.

    So try to find out what is negotiable and what is not negotiable. In what is negotiable one should be totally pliable and in what is not negotiable one should be perfectly rigid. Otherwise one cannot be a vibrant, living, organism.


  2. Yeah, I think the crucial thing is to discover what is negotiable and non-negotiable, for myself. I also see that my understanding of what is negotiable and what is non-negotiable is not something static but keeps evolving.

    I think the only way for me to refine my understanding is to assume some things as negotiable and some others as non-negotiable and listen to my emotional responses to situations as I try to live them out. Sometimes I see that something I thought of as non-negotiable is perhaps negotiable and vice versa.

    For example, I enter a situation thinking that something is negotiable, but I feel a deep resistance within, to the negotiation. That shows something I hadn’t known about myself, about what I’m seeking and what I’m avoiding. And this goes on.

    And I think what you say about being pliable in what I consider negotiable and rigid in what I consider non-negotiable is crucial, without which there’s no coherent evolution and refinement of my understanding of myself. Then I have felt as if I’m just floating around aimlessly.

  3. You are right. Evolution takes place along a spriral staircase. The inner model has to be dynamic. This model per se is one of the negotiable things in life. The fact that the staircase should lead upwards is non-negotiable. Now are our ideas about what is up and what is down negotiable or non-negotiable? I wonder.

  4. My understanding of this is that one should not restrain thought process, there would always be constraints within which one has to work, there can never be perfect situation so like both of you have rightly mentioned one needs to define what is negotiable and what is not.Some of these may change but some of these would never change. I work in Fraud Risk area so for me during course of my work it is non negotiable to do anything which can compromise an investigation but i might accept it if recommended action is taken taken based on findings. I try to ask questions and sometimes hold back the questions for appropriate time or build them up, which helps most of the time. I think most of the constraints are due to policies, procedures etc & at least in corporate world, they are open to change if value add is shown. I like your blog, my wife told me about it.

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