I am a deep thinker. There is nothing more energizing, more life-bringing, and more meaningful than for me to marinate on something. I love the world of parables and metaphors, using these tools to try to communicate something about how the world is and how it could be.
I realize, however, that not everyone is like me. Some are much more practical. They might have had a hard time even getting through that first paragraph – what is this about? What do I do with this? Some people are much more practical than me. Much more tangible. They want to know what to do.
There have been countless times in my life when I have been vilified by the practicals. I frustrate them and they accuse me of having my head in the clouds. Just as often, I have vilified them. They frustrate me with their impatience and their hurry into activity. One side thinks the other makes mistakes by moving too fast. The other thinks the other side makes mistakes by moving too slow. Both are right. Both are wrong.
An Elaborate Truth
In a community, seeking and sharing the truth means appreciating the value of what every member brings to the table. Unfortunately, our posture toward differences is often to compete. It is a zero sum game. One way must be superior to the other.
I think the reason we are so susceptible to this is twofold. First, the truth is so big and elusive. It feels impossible to grab ahold of. Because it is. Yet, we are in a quest for truth. And so, when we find an element of it, we hold onto it tightly. Here is The Truth, we say. This is the second aspect of our susceptibility – we are capable of perceiving a piece of the truth. When we find that piece, there is an easing of the confusion, the frustration, and the uncertainty. So we hold it tightly.
The beauty of life in a community is that it is constantly stretching us to an elaborate truth. We cannot stay in our phone booth of accuracy when there is a frontier of truth to explore.
A Suffocating Truth
It can be dangerously constrictive to stay in our comfortable bubbles of truth. We’ve found it! We have arrived. No need to explore any further. All we need to do is plant ourselves firmly and convince everyone else of just how right we are.
This is the strategy of a suffocating truth. It is the kind of thing you get when you hear someone say something mean and then proclaim, “I am just speaking the truth”. What they mean is they have a fact right (or, more likely, they believe they have the interpretation of a fact right). But love and kindness and grace are also elements of the truth. They miss the forest for the tree.
Too many relationships, organizations, and communities find themselves full of individuals in competing suffocating truths. They have each found their little niche of accuracy. And they feel as though to acknowledge any element of accuracy in another is to abandon their own. This, in large part, is how we have gotten into the political climate we find ourselves in today.
As a community, we can pursue an elaborate truth without sacrificing our rightness. They are not only mutually inclusive, they are necessary for one another.
I can easily become shackled by my inability to do something. I just want to think about it. Or, I feel as though thinking rightly is the end of the matter. And nothing gets done. Others, the more practical ones, can rush into action. They might find themselves shackled by making the same mistakes over and over because they mistake practicality with progress.
The truth is, we need one another. We obviously need thought and action. The two depend on one another.
We need communities who are committed to an elaborate truth. One might say a truer truth. Finding one aspect of the truth and tethering ourselves to it is limiting. It sucks the oxygen out of our communities and their function of seeking and sharing truth together.
The truth is both small and big. It is both clear and ineffable. It is beyond our grasp and within our reach. Living in these paradoxes is what it means to be human and is the key to thriving, healthy communities.