We’re all Blind

“A Conversion,” by Martin Buber, was a difficult read. Within his writing, I struggle to discern exactly what his intention is with providing such a vague description of a moment in which he is having a rare experience with Mystery. He says at the start that “In the early years the ‘religious’ was for me the exception.” (Buber 84) However, what I believe we ultimately hear described is a conversion: Buber changes from one perspective to another. Where before Mystery was the exception, at the end of his work he says that, “I possess nothing but the everyday out of which I am never taken. The mystery is no longer disclosed, it has escaped or it has made its dwelling here where everything happens as it happens.” (Buber 84)

It is much easier to understand the difference between an “I-It” relationship (relating to another as an object, like viewing the world through the “arrogant eye” discussed previously) and an “I-Thou” relationship (relating to the other as a thou, like viewing the world through the “loving eye) when we examine it through the Raymond Carver’s “The Cathedral.” In the story, a man writes about his wife who has been friends with a blind man for around ten years. The man, this woman’s husband, doesn’t really want the blind man to come. To her husband, the blind man is summed up in his disability. At one point, while reflecting on the death of the blind man’s wife, he says, “And then to slip off into death, the blind man’s hand on her hand, his blind eyes streaming tears—I’m imagining now—her last thought maybe this: that he never even knew what she looked like, and she on an express to the grave.” (Carver 4) His understanding of the blind man is entirely constrained by the “It” of his blindness. He imagines how miserable the man’s wife must have been at not being seen by her husband, never considering all the ways we see each other without our eyes.

It isn’t until he sees the blind man as a thou that he begins to understand that this truly and fully a man, a person with depth and capacity similar to his own. After his wife fell asleep on the couch, they began watching a show together on cathedrals. At times where it wasn’t narrated, the man attempted to describe what he was seeing to the blind man. He says, “Something has occurred to me. Do you have any idea what a cathedral is? What they look like, that is? Do you follow me? If somebody says cathedral to you, do you have any notion what they’re talking about? Do you the difference between that and a Baptist church, say?” (Carver 10) The blind man answers in contexts that likely did not occur to the man: he speaks of the number of workers it took, the amount of years, the generations of investment. He shared that he understood that men would start a project knowing that they wouldn’t see it completed. Eventually, the blind man asks the man to draw a cathedral for him, and places his hand on the mans so that he might “see” what the man is drawing though the movements. This is really the point where the man truly begins to see the blind man as a thou. He put all his energy into trying to describe through these movements what a cathedral was.

At the very end, the blind man asked the man who was drawing to close his eyes, but to keep drawing. Finally, at the end, the blind man asks him to look at his drawing and tell him what he thinks. The man, now, is not quite ready to open his eyes. I think this is an expression of solidarity with the blind man, of really seeing the man in his wholeness. We witness the woman’s husband shift from viewing the blind man as an “it” to a “thou,” and the weird and beautiful things that can come out of that transition.

 

Works Cited

Buber, Martin. “A Conversion.” Meetings. London: Routledge, 2002. Excerpt.

Carver, Raymond. “Cathedral.” Carver, Raymond. Collected Stories. New York: Library of America, 2009. Short Story.

 

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Dave Ramsey: Building Unity (Notes from Catalyst)

Dave Ramsey is an American entrepreneur whose work brings financial freedom to people in all walks of life. He began his talk by speaking about the Belgian Plow Horse.

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You see, this amazing horse can pull 8,000 lbs. on it’s own. But if you take two of them, who have never met before and team them up, they can pull 24,000 lbs. together. Somehow, through their teamwork, their immediately able to do the work that most people would have assumed would require three horses. The really amazing thing is, when those two horses are a matched pair, they are fairly similarly, know each other, etc. they’re able to pull 32,000 lbs. That’s 4x the work that one can do!

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth. (Genesis 11:1-9)

The remarkable thing about this verse is that the Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.” God says that nothing is impossible for us when we act in uncommon fellowship. In this story, we see that the people who settled in Shinar started worshipping what God gave us (like the ability to build a tower that reaches to the heavens) rather than worship the God who made all things possible for us.

Unity and uncommon fellowship is not a natural occurrence, it is from intentionality. Dave Ramsey outlined 5 enemies of this over his time as an organizational and spiritual leader.

  1. Poor Communication
    1. Learned from Andy Stanley, repetition is key as leader. Tell them until they are annoyed with you telling them, because then you know they know. Then, remind them.
    2. Cast vision, and spend a tremendous amount of time and energy as a leader communicating that vision.
      1. Sit down together, invest in breaking bread with each other (you wouldn’t believe, he said, they amount they spend on people eating together)
      2. Organizations move at the speed of the trust we’ve built
  2. Gossip
    1. Why do people who pee in their cereal gripe about the taste?
    2. Psalm 34:14 “Keep your tongue from evil And your lips from speaking deceit.”
    3. Real complaints have a responsibility to be taken to leadership, but you also have a responsibility to be part of the solution.
  3. Unresolved Disagreement
    1. Leaders pull, bosses push
      1. We don’t push people to where we want to be, we go and pull them to where we are
      2. You might not like each other, but you need to trust each other
      3. Disagreements distract us from the goal
  4. Lack of Shared Purpose
    1. When we drop the ball, anyone on the team can pick up the ball because we all know where we go.
      1. Most of the time, if we have 12 people, we have 12 agendas which creates tension and confused priorities.
  5. Sanctioned Incompetence
    1. If you allow incompetence or non-compliance, you demotivate your whole team.
      1. Whether they are volunteers or employees, excellence is the standard. By not dealing with those who don’t meet the standard, you are encouraging it. Misbehavior then gets worse and hurts everyone.
      2. To be unclear is to be unkind.
        1. Example: A old guy who was being too much of a hugger and was creeping everyone out. As soon as it was brought to his attention, he confronted the issue. “Stop doing that, you’re being a creeper.” “It’s how I am.” His response? “Change.” Why? Because behavior, like being a creeper, is a decision and it’s not okay.

These are spiritual issues. If you adopt these as guides for leadership and enforce them, then your team will adopt it and remind you of it when the team fails to meet those expectations.

Clay Scroggins: Health and Fellowship (Notes from Catalyst)

Clay Scroggins is the lead pastor at North Point Community Church (and works for Andy Stanley). What he spoke about brought to mind the person I report to and how excellent she is at keeping health (mental, spiritual, physical and social) at the forefront. She is so effective at reminding people of their worth and the necessity to care for themselves well if they are to care for others well. But I digress…

Clay Scroggins began with the idea that uncommon fellowship rarely happens with unhealthy people. This doesn’t mean that we should only be in relationship with healthy people, but it does acknowledge the fact that people who aren’t emotionally healthy are unable to build truly healthy relationships. This is why, as a leader, the best thing that we can actually do for our team is to work on our own health.

Unhealthiness is a barrier, and we witness that in teams all the time. He joked that, if you don’t know who the person on your team is that has a toxic attitude, it’s very likely that it is you (maybe not so much of a joke). This is why, for leaders, EQ is more important than IQ. We are the emotional guide for our team, and it’s HARD to do for others what you cannot do for yourself.

Emotional health is the ability to recognize and manasge our emotions as well as control our own emotions. In order to become emotionally healthy, you must first become aware. You can’t grow if you don’t know. And nothing distracts us from trending toward emotional health than white noise. White noise is a tool to mask unwanted sound and we all use white noise to mask unwanted emotion. This can look like disengaging and retreating to your phone, being more of a presence online than in life, earbuds being a permanent fixture in your attire, or maybe it’s even pills, or a few glasses of wine, etc. This masking of our emotions numbs our senses and disconnects us from reality.

The Keystone Habits of Emotionally Healthy Leaders

  1. Turn the white noise down low enough, long enough, to be ruthlessly curious of our own emotions.
    1. White noise is devastating to our curiosity
    2. In a study of 35 CEO’s in Atlanta, there were only a few traits shared across ALL of them:
      1. Get up early
      2. Have a regular rhythm of reflection/prayer; times of unplugging & solitude
  2. Recognize that your emotions are messengers.
    1.  When the white noise gets too loud, we miss what our emotions are attempting to tell us
      1. Think about the idea that “Silence can be deafening;” there’s things to be heard in that space
      2. Experiment with white noise (make margin to hear from God and yourself)
        1. Learn to identify the emotion. Men are often seen as either being “fine” or being “mad.” There’s a wide spectrum of emotions we feel that help us to understand what we are experiencing and what is happing around us

In Summary…

  1. Experiment with reducing white noise. Psalm 26:2 “Examine me, O LORD, and try me; Test my mind and my heart.”
  2. Identify the emotion your feeling. Psalm 139:23-24 “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
  3. Interrogate the emotion. 2 Corinthians 10:5 “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Ask:
    1. When did I first notice this emotion?
    2. What exactly is driving this emotion?
    3. How should I respond to this emotion?
  4. Determine what you are going to do about the emotion. James 1:19 “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,”

What is ultimately at stake if we fail to turn down the white noise? Uncommon fellowship, marriages, friendships, partnerships and transformation. The more emotionally healthy we become, the more uncommon the fellowship we will experience.

Things to Communicate on for a Serious Relationship

This was a checklist that I just found tucked into my Bible from a group I attend sometimes that covers a variety of topics. This was obviously on relationships and I can see how this would be worth holding onto.

  1. Who are they?
    1. Health Status
      1. Can be a big deal knowing what you’re dealing with time-wise and financially
    2. Assessment of Personal Attributes
      1. Best and worst traits about yourself, defining experiences, etc.
    3. Dating History
      1. With others and the person you are marrying
      2. Also includes relationship roles and expectations
    4. Sex (Boundaries: will they wait?)
      1. Any history here with other person or anyone else? Abuse? Physical reasons this might not function normally for you?
    5. Friends/Recreation
      1. Types friends, from where (church/work/sports/neighbors), expectations on time spent, prioritizing making new friends vs. current friends, which friends of partner do you get along with/not get along
  2. Where are they going?
    1. List of Goals and Values
      1. Individually and for your relationship/future family
    2. Employment/Career Plans
      1. Natural gifts/expectations for salary/longevity (including if either would stay at home with kids), future schooling
    3. Financial Goals/Priorities
      1. Current savings, month spending debt, giving, bank account status (shared vs. separate), level of insurance, goals for size/expense of house, car, etc.
      2. Full page itemized annual budget sheet
    4. Description of Parents and their Relationships
      1. Like it or not, definitely trend toward emulating roles of your parents
      2. Helps establish your baseline view of “normal” relationship, including responsibilities (e.g. who takes out the trash?)
    5. In-Laws
      1. Similar questions to questions about parents
      2. Also how you saw similarities in partner’s character/personality relative to that of their mom and dad
    6. Kids
      1. Number, in how long, birth vs. adoption, spread out or in a row
      2. Parenting roles
    7. Residence
      1. Location, environment (city/neighborhood/suburbs/country)
      2. Size (short and long term)
  3. How do you see God in them? (Throughlines of JUSTICE and COMPASSION)
    1. Types of Things you Communicate About
      1. Conflict styles, how you convey excitement/anger/worry, how you communicate your stress, etc.
    2. Motivation/Reasoning Behind Decisions
      1. Good indicator of priorities
    3. How They Treat People/How People View Them
      1. Can seer humor, how consistent their behavior is around different kind of people
      2. Can learn about qualities that they have in environment you haven’t had a chance to interact with them in yet
    4. Faith
      1. Frequency for church/devotions/discipleship/service/community?
      2. Why is this valuable to you?
      3. Spiritual gifts/testimony?