Answers can be traumatizing. I remember the crushing feel of concrete on my skull when the thin stretch of rope tied to a ceiling rafter on one end and the Hula hoop I was swinging in on the other, gave way, allowing me to drop head first on to the unforgiving basement slab. I remember the texture of warm blood and hair on my six year-old palms as I held the back of my head and ran, ears ringing, to the nearest person I could find. I remember the bristle of freshly knotted rows of stitches on swollen shaven skin. I learned a lot about gravity, physics, and rope strength, and would use that information to never repeat the experience.
In the Old Testament, when something life changing would occur an altar would be built. It would remind people. They could return to that spot but could not go back from it. I built an altar that day.
I have had moments of clarity. I have formed conclusions that made me think I actually could speak as if I was an authority on an issue or line of thought. On occasion, I found the hidden door in the middle of the labyrinth and, while walking through the door the split second synapses firing told me I had made it out. And now I knew how to get out and therefore I could tell other people how to get out. But then I realized that I was just in another part of the labyrinth. What was true and frustrating about learning in Jr. High school is still true and frustrating. The answer to a question is always another question.
On a gut level, it is why the surety with which some people navigate complex issues of life feels foreign, even fabricated to me. I am skeptical of people who “have it figured out.” To me, having it “figured out” is a misjudgment of circumstances or perspective, like Christopher Columbus, while his boots are being gently lapped by the ocean tide of the West Indies, proclaiming the discovery of America. I don’t think we are supposed to arrive. I don’t think we are supposed to figure it out. We have a terrible habit of becoming dismissive with the things we have figured out. I think we are supposed to keep walking in a direction and keep being awed by the mystery and complexity with every step. I don’t think we are supposed to run out of things to question or talk about.
It occurs to me that we should treat answers like pronouns, connectors that get us to the next question. But mostly, I think answers get misused. They end conversations and become points of stalemate. And when our answers set too long, they harden and become impervious to new ideas and further wisdom. And then we think we have it figured out. The result is that we lose mystery at the parallel rate to losing passion.
As a boy growing up going to church, I thought it enviable to have answers. The saints of old and the leaders of the present seemed to know things about God and life that allowed them to lead and be passionate. But the older I got, the more my eyes were open, I found that I had interpreted it all wrong. It was actually in line with what I hoped of the upside down kingdom of God. It was the wealth of questions not answers that gave saints and priests and missionaries and poets their motivation.
They didn’t have better answers. They had better questions. And there was always a question beyond the one they were currently asking. There is an art to, “the next question.” It is mystery that fuels passion. It is awe and wonder at the unknown that draws our gaze heavenward.
A lot of people become writers because they have answers. They write books, and find their way on to the Oprah Network, and get bolstered by armies of marketing firms and food franchises and they end up with plastic happy meal toys made in their image. Saying you have answers can be lucrative. I don’t have time for answers. They are too full of pride and prejudice to run for very long.
And so this is a place where questions will be common. It is a place where I will attempt to challenge many of my own conclusions about safety and language and religion and politics and culture.
Should I decide to one day write a book about all of this stuff, it will not be a book about what I do know, but rather what I do not.
SO... WELCOME. I hope you enjoy the civilized conversations.
Music is a catalyst for writing. Many songs and albums influence the kind of writing I do. I will do my best to let you know what I am listening to and what has been the soundtrack for my writing. Hopefully, you will not only come away with some great questions to consider, but also some great music for your listening enjoyment.
And lest this just be another place where we can come to blather about the world, the church, our neighborhoods and all the other broken bones of this dry land, I will often point out good work that is being done. I will highlight various organizations and movements that I see as important. We must, after all, get our hands dirty or what good are they?
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