Upcycle: reuse (discarded objects or material) in such a way as to create a product of a higher quality or value than the original.
This last Saturday we went out to distribute supplies and build relationships like we always do. We didn’t go to Tarp Man’s bench this time. But as we drove home, I noticed he wasn’t warming the bench anymore. He, his blue tarp with all it’s wrinkles and questions were gone, someone had even removed the bench. It was then I was struck by the profound. Originally, I set out to uncover why so many passed him by. After some deep contemplation, buried in a much deeper part of my soul, it finally surfaced. I may have not gotten an exact answer as to why people ignore him like annoying piece of trash. But I (and he) received a gift much greater than a mere, clear answer.
The gift: the question itself. On this one writer penned, “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves.” (a)
Why should we love the questions that torture us like the final unplayed note of a symphony? Damien’s (Tarp Man’s) absence pointed to a truth hidden deep within the recesses of the very heart of mankind. I realized that the asking was the destination, not the beginning. It seemed I had written a whole book on answering the ‘why’ questions of life that hadn’t been published just so I could discover that the answers were not what I was after, ever. Publishing the book was never the end of the journey. During that whole process, the explanation was right in front of me, all along. It’s like the lady that yelled “do not pray away my diabetes. It saved my life. It made me finally take care of myself.” Taking away the ‘asking’ would eliminate the appreciation; the honor; the compassion; the profound respect, the curiousity. Questions, in the right hands, become fuel. Fuel for change.
Questions, like emotions, in and of themselves are neutral. But, also like emotions, when we learn how to harness their need fulfilling purpose, the whole of deep questions, again, in the right hands, is broken down into fuel...for change. Sort of like how crude oil is broken down into usable fuels and oils that drive our machines.
Don’t pray my doubting, my curiosity away. They’re the fuel for my thirst, my energy, my passions. In this case, they provide the fuel my heart burns as I’m propelled into the worlds of hurting people. Without the questions conceived in the middle of my own suffering, I would have passed Damien by like a self-indulged ship in the night.
In our organization, we take objects or materials that would have often otherwise been discarded, and make something, we think, of a higher quality or value than the original products. For instance, we take weather-worn fence wood and beams, tossed metals and dilapidated furniture parts and make polished, high-quality furniture. In a similar vein, it seems the discarded questions that pack the landfills of our souls, if put into the potter's hands, can be transformed and made into something of much greater value than the original product. Questions, we will find, then serve a much greater purpose than merely being answered.
Maybe other people passed Damien by because they lacked some of the byproducts of unanswered questions. Maybe because their lives had not taken the prerequisite “wrong turns,” they lack the curiosity that had been a gift to me and so many others. Maybe they aren’t sure what to do. Maybe they desire change, but lack the fuel. Maybe they do care, they just lack the drive of the asker.
I see this same fuel in war-torn veterans who run to the rescue of another soldier who is struggling with PTSD. Or in alcoholics that believe “you can’t keep what you don’t give away.” In the therapy world we call this Trauma Bonding, the good kind. In either case, while they sit beneath the heavy load of their own battle, the fuel of unanswered questions thrusts them out of their own and into the world of another.
“Do I even want the answers? Not if they take away my drive to seek out those who need my curiosity, my compassion, my love...not in a million years!” If having the answers strips away the crushing awareness of the suffering of others from my heart, leave them wherever they are. I prefer the questions, upcycled.
P.S. The day before finishing this blog, a man named Peter (a fellow asker) notified me that Damian, in his words, “The man under the Tarp,” is now under his organization's care.” He now “has his own bed, food, a nurse and access to medical care when needed. We are also working on getting benefits for sustained fiscal support.” He closes with, “perhaps it was you who brought him to us.”
The power of questions!