Monday, June 14, 2010

A Day for New Paradigms

Sometimes, when you're writing, it's easy to become so focused on your own work that you miss other stuff that's floating around.

That's one reason why it's so good to be involved in an intellectually as well as spiritually stimulating church (Actually, I don't think it's correct to use the two terms that separately - the spiritual and the intellectual are not discrete entities that must be approached individually or separately - they inform one-another...).

Rebekah's Sunday messages always point me in new directions, where I end up challenged and inspired and educated all at the same time. Sunday-school and small-group experiences typically push the envelop, stimulating discussion and heartfelt prayer and edgy ideas. And then conversations during the week, with class members, other leaders, and friends who value intelligent dialog. It's all good.

My friend Charles sent me a link to an 18 minute lecture on creativity and the challenge to engage people - children and adults alike - educationally in ways that stir their deepest passions. The speaker was excellent, but I was most excited about a quote he shared, an Abraham Lincoln vignette I had heard before but had not really processed until now.

The context for Lincoln's remarks is the Civil War, and the futility we experience when we try to solve current problems by reaching backward, instead of forward.

  • The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise -- with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country - Abraham Lincoln, 1862

OKay. We've all heard that before. But today, June 14, 2010, I am captured by Lincoln's understanding that this nation is in danger when we allow ourselves to be "enthralled" by the dogmas of yesterday, rather than "thinking anew" and "acting anew."

The word "enthrall" comes from a Middle English expression meaning to be held in the spell of. The idea had the connotation of slavery - to be bound. It is a mind-set that is hobbled. I can't help but think of the constant wash of forwarded emails, evoking an idyllic image of "The Good Old Days" and the suggestion that if we just turned the clock back then everything would be hunky-dory.

Well, yes... if you're white, and middle-class, and male, and socially "christian" (lower-case "c" my choice).

People enthralled by yesterday - and this is true in many religious circles too - seem to be unwilling to "rise with the occasion". Yesterday holds them in thrall. Creativity and hope die on the vine.

But I am increasingly convince that there is no standing still. There is either moving forward or there is sliding back. Maybe it would help if we thought about the learning curve this way: It was the recent past that brought us to this point; yesterday (for good or for ill) was the horse we rode in on. I'm not suggesting we shoot the horse, but it might be time to put it out to pasture, with appropriate thanks and honor, and continue in the business of reformation.

I believe this is the day for new paradigms.

1 comment:

Ronda's Rants said...

Wonderful and I agree!