The Great Questions We Carry

A defective four leaf clover.

Each year at Christmas my grandfather gives everyone in the family a small hand held puzzle. Often these puzzles are clear cubes containing metal balls and rings that must be aligned to complete a design. Most of the time I can see what I think the outcome should be, yet the challenge is finding the solution before I lose interest.

The wisdom in these little puzzles is clear. They parallel the individual and collective questions we all carry. Some are trivial and amusing, easily put down and picked up again. Others are larger and require more time and effort to solve. After a little fiddling these larger puzzles are often shelved in hopes that “some day” we’ll have time to spread out all the pieces and restore order to the chaos.

We seem to reserve a special place for the truly great questions and we keep them within constant reach. These are the questions of life that won’t let go. They demand our attention.

At times I’ve attempted to force pieces together that don’t belong. Particularly the beautiful pieces that seem so good together. Fabricating solutions in ignorance or accepting answers that are comfortable, but not accurate.

While there are clearly right and wrong choices, there is a wide spectrum of individual solutions within those bounds. Yet the constants, the rules that apply across that spectrum, can be difficult to identify independently. Many of life’s variables are in constant flux. We rarely get a bird’s eye view of the labyrinth, and few of life’s puzzles are cut as evenly as factory made cardboard and plastic.

Fortunately, when we find solutions we share them. Small and simple things can be the greatest gifts. Answers to long sought questions can be the key to gaining mountain top perspective on the dark valley of our lives. Sometimes answers come like a flood and other times in painfully slow drips.

The key is having a desire to search for solutions. To believe the answer exists and to keep working to discover answers that are equal to the questions.

What does this have to do with education and training? Everything.

Why we know less than ever about the world

I watched a brief yet revealing TED talk this morning by Public Radio International CEO, Alisa Miller, titled “Why we know less than ever about the world.” Sadly, American news media spends most of their resources focusing on myopic issues, like personal tragedies in the lives of pop stars, while ignoring the rest of the world. Watch this four minute and twenty nine second clip to see the statistics and hear Alisa Miller in her own words.


Note to news media: Next time you’re tempted to report on something relatively trivial, like an athlete turned actor running from police in his white Ford Bronco, chances are high that something of true importance, like the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda, is happening at the same time. If you don’t tell us, how will we know?

Living in a “Fill the Space” Age (Or the myth of emptiness)

Life is great and small

We are living in the “space” age. Not the science fiction version with flying cars and tight pants but an age where every moment, every space, must be filled.

In our cities homes are stacked on top of each other. We build in as much as we build out. Hollow space is considered either a potential commodity or a design flaw. If you have empty space, or “free” time, the American question is; what will you do with it? What will you do to fill the space you’ve been given to make it larger, to make it better?

In our market economy product saturation, or infiltration, presides. Competition for space in the most precious of all real-estate markets, the human mind, is in constant flux. It seems no space is too sacred for the adviser’s pen. The desire to fill ourselves, to fill our own sense of emptiness, makes nearly every space, and every item, exchangeable.

Nothing is its own for its own sake. All can quickly become a token, a trading card for something else to fill the ironically increasing void in our expanding world.

As we look deeper into the origins of life and farther into the expanse of the heavens we find that both are endless. The visible world is growing as we gaze into what we thought was invisible, with new eyes. Yet there is a harmony in what appears to be chaos. The order runs deep and balance is maintained. There are limits keeping order between the spaces.

While in this accelerating age of space filling I hope we will choose to value the sacred space of the human mind and stop catering to those who would exploit our most vulnerable locations.