I have started to delve into the work of Bernard Lonergan SJ. In my initial foray I came across the idea of the tension of inquiry. I find it a useful idea. Our educational systems tend to reward getting the right answer, but do not necessarily encourage developing a degree of comfort with the tension of inquiry.
The tension of inquiry is uncomfortable. It is that uncertainty of not quite knowing how everything fits together that precedes what Lonergan would call insight. That aha moment of understanding.
I suppose the ‘tension’ arises not simply out of confusion or the lack of clarity. There are many things in the world which I don’t understand which I am perfectly happy not to understand. Rather the tension arises out of the desire for clarity, the desire for insight, the desire to understand, and the recognition that I am not there yet.
Learning to live in this space of tension is important. It is the thing that will motivate us to do the work that is required for discovery.
But I wonder if our desire for contentment, and all the memes that encourage happiness (let go of relationships that don’t feed you; make sure that you love your job; life too short for …… etc.) don’t actually actively discourage living with tension. I think that at times, we need to live with a healthy tension in order to allow something new to emerge.
Educationally, the ‘new’ thing is understanding or insight. In life terms, the ‘new’ thing may be a career path or a relationship, or something smaller but no less significant. In my own life, I have learnt the importance of living with the uncertainty of the next step. Trying to resolve that tension too quickly shuts down real possibilities.
In the next few months I am going to be working on actively increasing my capacity to be comfortable with the tension of inquiry. I think it could have a positive effect on my research career!