On Asking Good Questions

When you encounter something great, you reblog it.

Commonplace Book Blog

I don’t know whether it’s an art or a science. But I do know this: the ability to ask good questions is a skill, one which can be practiced, crafted, and perfected. At least, that’s what I tell myself.

In the wake of two rather successful blog posts last week (my Discover post The Role of Imagination in Creative Nonfiction and On the Improbability of Being Discovered), in which dozens of people responded to a question at the end of each post, I’ve recently been thinking about what makes a good question.

Because this influx of responses is not usually the case for me.

I usually pose a question at the end of each post, which is at least loosely related to what I’ve written. Some questions produce little response; others, none. And several have inspired quite a few truly engaging comments.

I think about the questions I’ve been asked over the years…

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Traveling by Fire, Healing by Thought

So often, we judge and discern the world by our own perceptions of what is. What is “that”? Is “that” right or wrong? How does “that” affect me? These discernments drive a life forward on whatever path it perceives itself to be on. Judgments happen along the way that can be complicated to avoid. In fact, I would definitely suggest there are some forms of judgment that are healthy especially when these judgments help encourage good decision making.

Traveling by fire means living – really living – if not to every fiber of your physical being, then to every fiber of your mental or spiritual being. Healing by thought is like making a thinking adjustment that must occur in order to heal mentally or physically. Sometimes healing is simply being willing to move in another direction, to take another path when the one you are on is not working.


I told myself at the end of 2017 that I would move forward in 2018 with a new attitude, a new life, a new way of practicing happiness. Sometimes though, depending on who you are and what your perceptions are, engaging life can feel like being barefoot on hot coals. At that point, hopping is all thats happening and ouch! that hurts! hot! What in the flute did I do this relationship for?

Wait! Perceptions. Relationship. Two people. The other person’s perception though is very different about what a relationship is – like maybe a relationship is something you pronounce words over. They say things like “just don’t get involved” while you are being totally affected. For the other person, this is not a relationship. However, yes it is. The relationship is an anti-relationship, but still on the mathematical “something is affected” scale. They just can’t sense, see it or feel it like you do. Truthfully, it reminds me of a person I once knew. He would grab my knee in a gooch move and when I would scream, “ouch! that hurts!” his response would be, “but I didn’t feel nuthing.” Believe me, his statement was genuine.

That is what I would call a relationship that everyone is looking at as negative. Negative is exactly what it was for me at that time, however, today, if I don’t trust you, you can make me neither laugh nor cry. The phenomena is exactly like having a high pain tolerance in certain areas. So this is my question: If I got something valuable out of that, was it really a negative or anti-relationship? When tears are being shed, they will only be shed as long as they need to be. Anything else is a waste and no relationship is negative entirely. No relationship is entirely positive either.

If I were to open up, I would say that in the last year I “began” the process for ending a “not relationship”. This type of relationship is so much harder to end because no one acknowledges it and those who do are pissed off about it even if I am not. You see, I have always believed that all relationships are valuable even if they are short term. The only tragedy is when you get nothing good at all out of a relationship. In such a case, I am sure this has zero to do with “the other person”.

What am I suggesting? I am suggesting that you travel by fire, heal by good thinking and get something out of everything because there is not a moment here that is not valuable. I am very hard headed about somethings. I am very internalized though so I am still teachable and I learn quick:

If I am not happy, I do need to be.

The solution is whatever it takes for you to find happiness or if found, then eliminate barnacles and go back to the original course of solid thinking.

A word of special warning: If you do not consider yourself strong, and you consider things like revenge, long term self devastation, etc when your feelings get hurt, no, no, this is not for you. If you say things like: “I won’t never get hurt again!” or you believe your heart can be broken, you are right and you should walk on water instead!