Falling in love with the question

The Dean at the school of public health had his “state of the school” town hall meeting today, and he introduced us to a sneak peek of a movie to be released in time with the 100th anniversary of the school. The clip is about two minutes long and shows different people in different parts of the world. Some people are suffering from disease, civil unrest, and environmental disasters. Others are there to help. The clip features a narration of a quote from Rainer Maria Rilke:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Rilke’s first name was René, by the way.

Way too many times, we in public health get frustrated because things stand in the way of our personal and professional goals. There’s either not enough money or not enough time, or, even worse, there is not enough interest from those in positions of authority. That frustration zaps our energy and we don’t have enough to push us to do the next great thing.

But look at that quote. Read it again. What a wonderful concept to “love the questions themselves” and not just chase after the answers. Maybe this is not a new concept to you, but it is to me. I’ve been chasing the answers for so long that I often lose the love for the process of solving the puzzle, then I throw the puzzle away.

Not anymore.

PS: The clip is out there on the web if you look for it. But, as of right now, it has a “not for public distribution” label with it. I’ll post it if the school publishes it.

I'm a doctoral candidate in the Doctor of Public Health program at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. All opinions posted here are my own, of course, and they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my school, employers, friends, family, etc. Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @EpiRen