One of the paperback books that moves with me from room to room in my townhouse is The 7 Powers of Questions by Dorothy Leeds. It is the second copy or maybe the third; the first one destroyed in a coffee cup spill years ago and the second loaned and not returned. This copy is full of sticky notes, scrapes of paper, several colors of highlighters and something that reminds me of the strength of the right question on every page.
My reasoning is: if extraordinary elders use the last part of living to become introspective and learn to frame wisdom stories from their experiences, the right questions need to be asked and answered. Giving a “think” to what open-ended questions you would ask a friend in your age group would give you a start on the questions to ask yourself. “What were some major life lessons that led you to be the person you are now?” Big complex question, lots of possible answers that may give you a clue to a person’s value system or trauma history. Please do not ask me that question if you want a quick answer.
The other quick reference the book can offer is a chapter titled “the 50 smartest questions.” When mediation was on my career plate, this was a great chapter to review before going into a session with hostile participants. These hostile -to- mediation type- people had the most difficult time engaging in that other important practice–LISTENING. There are also constant teachings about that subject in the book.
A major reason this book is following me from room to room is the workshop/class/seminar that my friend Terri and I are writing with a working title of Civil Conversation. ( THIS IS THE THIRD WORKING TITLE). First working title was “how not to call some one a —-head”. This has become such a huge work in process that if we ever get to teach it we should get news coverage. I am reading books and articles about human nature, implicit bias, and perceptions of social class. Based on all of that, I am thinking we are a doomed species since we cannot seem to have a conversation about the big important stuff without becoming defensive or angry and turning off that all-important listening button.
But, in addition to that book, one came into my hand at the Green Valley Ranch branch of the Denver Public Library. In looking over the space where my class will be held in May, my elder squinty eyes spied books to tell you about. How Then Shall We Live by Wayne Muller.
The questions: Who Am I?, What do I love?, How shall I live knowing I will Die?, and my all time altruistic favorite, WHAT IS MY GIFT TO THE FAMILY OF THE EARTH? Is that an awesome question or what? Really makes the people who can’t have a civil conversation seem a bit small.
At the monthly meeting of the Death Café today, I thought about bringing up that question, but it can wait. There were other people with more pressing questions, but if you are diagnosed with a fatal something or other, that last one would be on your list.
Speaking of the Café, they will have a session next Sunday, the 26th at 3:30 pm at the Tattered Cover on Colfax in Denver to help people fill out some of the planning ahead paperwork around medical care when death is close. The Five Wishes and the Colorado MOST forms will be discussed by Nancy and the other facilitator. If I had a wish for you all, it would be that you attended even one of the sessions to see the sense of community a group of strangers can make in the right atmosphere.
May you answer the questions that need an answer and ask the ones held deep in your heart,