On Rosh Hashanah, our beloved Rabbi Black of Temple Emanuel in Denver remarked that the word “life” contains in its center the word “if.”

He expanded on the way we play with the word “if.”

We ask “what if?”

What if I am radically honest with myself?

We act “as if.”

What might I create if I act “as if” I have confidence and courage rather than allow doubt to paralyze me?

We think “if only.”

How do I avoid looking back and asking “if only I had pursued my dreams.”

Rabbi Black used “if” to challenge us to create, live our purpose, collaborate with and support others’ dreams.

My squirrel brain, however, felt that he had left something out.

What if the worst happens?

What if robbers break into our house in the middle of the night and murder us and the dogs before the Greenwood Village police can drive the 1.2 miles to rescue us in our alarmed fortress?

What if I get stuck in an elevator and die there as some saddist watches from a security camera as I succumb to dehydration and exposure?

What if I take a wrong turn, drive to Canada and never get home?

Oh, wait, these are the “what ifs” my nine-year-old asks.

The power to change often lies in asking the right question.

Our questions are shaped by our outlook on life.

The psychologist Barbara Fredrikson explains that our worldview is shaped by the ratio of positive to negative in our lives.

When we assume the worst, guard vigilantly against danger and push others away to protect ourselves, the world is bleak. The questions we ask our negative. Our answers come from a place of scarcity and loneliness. We cannot see beyond the morass of negativity, let alone wish to create something novel.

Conversely, when we flood our lives and minds with positive experiences, we take an expansive view of the world. Fredrikson calls this the “broaden and build” mindset. We ask better questions and our answers are more creative and purposeful.

The childish, undisciplined mind asks the scary “what ifs.”

I must be awake to the limits of my vision.

I must ask myself “what am I not seeing?”

Where does crazy brain darken my world view?

Am I asking the right “what ifs?”

What if this is paradise rather than hell on earth?

Rabbi Black’s complete sermon may be found here: