I like to believe my inner life is rich – that I live a well-examined life. When I was a teenager, I regularly received admonishment on the grounds that “I [think] too much.”
Thought itself has never been my problem.
Growing up a Southern Baptist, evangelical Christian engrained within me a compulsion to evangelize and engage in apologetics – to compel others towards a given religious position. If I was not doing so with great fervor on a regular basis I learned my life was a waste.
Imagine the effect of this engrained instruction coupled with political fervor or excitement over a personal discovery. The desire to share “good news” is, in and of itself, not problematic. However, I believe problems can arise when the spread of an idea becomes necessary, militant even.
I freely admit this intuition is at odds with our current political climate – and the culture in which I was raised. I also acknowledge earlier periods in my young life where anger, fervor, or excitement overcame my ability to rationally and respectfully hear, and dialogue, with positions at odds with my own.
How to navigate the political aura of the day is worthy of robust discussion. Many opinions regularly pop into conversation and on my social feeds. Whereas in the past, I quickly jumped into the fray, I now try to take a more mindful approach.
Again, many may vehemently disagree with this – offering critiques that I am apathetic, lazy, or insufficiently defending positions that matter. We all have blind spots. Maybe some of that critique is correct, but I see a measured, intense commitment to listening and learning as an asset – not weakness.
I believe this to be true because real listening – real learning – fundamentally changes one’s inner life. Observing the world around me, I am more convinced than ever that the outer is a reflection of the inner, the inner a reflection of the outer; we are products of our environments, experiences, social circles, beliefs, values, and moral codes.
The opening song from Godspell, a Broadway musical, illustrates this concept as philosophers across the ages declare their core tenets. These statements – cornerstones of social, political, cultural, architectural, and religious movements across the ages – rise in intensity, clashing in a striking cacophony of “ivory towers of babble.”*
Against the backdrop of our political and cultural strife, take a moment to listen. See what declaration(s) might resonate with you – how the song makes you feel – what it makes you think or what new ideas come to mind. In the next post, we will explore connections between Part I of this series and what applications might apply to our here and now.
* For those unfamiliar with the reference, the Tower of Babble recounts the Biblical mythology of linguistic diversity and cultural schism. When god saw humanity’s hubris – the belief they could build a tower to heaven to reach god, to become like god – he intervened, sowing confusion through the instantaneous introduction of many languages and cultural affinities. This story is used to illustrate the danger of thinking god is reachable by any human action or coordination.
Continue to: Part III