Five Questions for Crossing the Threshold

This “New Year” thing is a curious fiction, isn’t it? The planet on which we’ve hitched a ride has been wheeling through space a lot longer than 2,014 years. And the hoopla we make at midnight on December 31st is a tad over the top for one more tick of the clock.

But this annual ritual allows us to imagine that maybe, just maybe, we’re on the threshold of something new and better — and some of our imaginings might come true, depending on what we do. Here’s a small poem that’s large with wise guidance for threshold-crossing:

We look with uncertainty
by Anne Hillman

We look with uncertainty
beyond the old choices for
clear-cut answers
to a softer, more permeable aliveness
which is every moment
at the brink of death;
for something new is being born in us
if we but let it.
We stand at a new doorway,
awaiting that which comes…
daring to be human creatures,
vulnerable to the beauty of existence.
Learning to love.

I’m going to pass on making New Year’s resolutions this time around. Instead, I’ll take Rilke’s* famous advice about “living the questions,” and carry into the New Year a few of the wonderings Hillman’s poem evokes in me:

• How can I let go of my need for fixed answers in favor of aliveness?
• What is my next challenge in daring to be human?
• How can I open myself to the beauty of nature and human nature?
• Who or what do I need to learn to love next? And next? And next?
• What is the new creation that wants to be born in and through me?

We look with uncertainty to the year ahead. But if we wrap our lives around life-giving questions — and live our way into their answers a bit more every day — the better world we want and need is more likely to come into being.

Happy New Year, everyone! May 2015 be a year of light and life for you and yours. And may we help make it so for others with whom we share this ride.

*…I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
(from Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke, translation by M.D. Herter Norton)

Five Questions for Crossing the Threshold by Parker J. Palmer

posted 31 Dec 2014 by Sandy