"Would you be willing to trade all of the years from this day to that for one chance, just one chance to say you may take our lives, but you will never take our freedom?" - Mel Gibson as William Wallace in Braveheart
Sometimes in life it becomes easy to accept things as the way they are, instead of questioning why they are the way that they are. Do things really have to be the way that they are? Do millions of people have to suffer and starve every day? Do millions of animals have to experience suffering on factory farms and in laboratories? Take it from an abstract question to a more local one and look at your own life. Why are you rich or poor, healthy or unhealthy, happy or depressed?
Why do some people turn immense suffering into a form of empowerment to help others? While some other people never get past the suffering and turn it inward in the forms of drug abuse, violence and other forms of self-destruction. It is not really necessary to know the answers, as few probably do. However, it is important to be mindful and ask the questions. Why? It is the act of questioning that causes people to make major changes in their lives. If you do not practice the art of questioning, you will most likely settle for a life that is less than you desired and wonder where all the time has gone. You will most likely end up on your deathbed full of regret. Sound harsh? Maybe it is. However, living a life that you do not want and not doing anything about it is much more painful.
One thing I really enjoy in my spare time is reading a variety of biographies. It really fascinates me to learn about other people's lives and how they accomplished amazing things and overcame immense suffering and turned it into a vehicle for self-awareness and positive change.
When Malcolm X was growing up, he experienced immense racial discrimination and lack of self worth. After being the top student in his eighth grade class, Malcolm's teacher asked him what he wanted to do with his life. Malcolm stated that he wanted to be a lawyer. The teacher's response was that it was not an appropriate occupation for an African American and that Malcolm should consider being a carpenter instead. One of the most horrible things that someone can do to another is place limitations on their abilities. However, the best form of self-defense to this negativity is to always question these limitations.
Fortunately, Malcolm had the opportunity to do just that when he was incarcerated for eight years. He joined the Nation of Islam and became a prolific reader. By doing so, he freed his mind and discovered he was capable. After Malcolm got out of prison, he challenged others to question the status quo and influenced thousands of people. Malcolm became an incredible speaker and long after his death, his words and life continue to motivate people.
Another example is Paul Watson, founder of the "Sea Shepherd's Conservation Society." Paul came to a crossroad in his life that affected him tremendously. While a member of Greenpeace, Paul witnessed the brutal death of a magnificent whale. The whale was killed for lubricants that would be used to make weapons. Paul was horrified and asked himself why the whale had to be killed in order to create more violence. Furthermore, he knew that there must be a better way for him to help the whales than being involved with Greenpeace.
The question empowered Paul to form the "Sea Shepherd's Society" and do everything in his power to prevent more whales and other sea life from being killed. Today, Paul is the Captain of a ship that travels the world preventing poachers from killing whales and other endangered sea life.
Gautama Siddharta questioned why he lived in affluence while others lived in poverty. Gautama was born into royalty and lived a luxurious life. He could have whatever material objects he wanted. However, something inside of him knew that the pursuit of material things was an illusion and that true happiness was not subject to change. Thus, Gautama relinquished the material world and chose a different path. His journey resulted in his enlightenment and the world now knows him as the Buddha.
Finally, another example is that of William Wallace. Those of you that have seen the movie "Braveheart" are familiar with William's amazing story. Although the movie is a Hollywood production and therefore exaggerated, what is true is that William questioned why the Scots had to be ruled by the British Empire. Why couldn't they fight for their freedom against incredible odds and be victorious? This turning point in William's life empowered a country to stand strong and take back what was theirs. The rest as they say is history.
Of course, you do not have to be as dramatic as the examples above. It is fine to question more basic thing in your life such as, Why am I doing a job that I hate? Why are people and animals suffering unnecessarily? Why am I in a relationship that I do not want to be in? The list is endless. I think that you will find that the art of questioning will empower you to take action and improve the quality of you life and those in your life. Proceed with caution though as the art of questioning is addictive and you may get more out of your life than you expected.
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