Originally published February 2, 2020
A couple of years ago I was the director of a housing agency serving a Native American nation. It was a learning experience I shall always cherish. During my stay I often found that we were so busy putting out fires that we often had no time to find the ignition point. So, I created a mantra to give us a different focus, and a hope of solving things—define the problem, find the solution.
This meme snagged from Facebook is an excellent example of what can happen when we focus on the immediate problem and lose sight of the contributing factors. Just now my beloved country is in turmoil. I understand that there are many nations facing the same type of issues. Growing trends toward violence, misogyny, homophobia, racism, intolerance of all shapes and sizes against anything or anyone that is not “us.” But I am here to tell you that whatever our leaders do, or whatever their motivations may be, they are only the symptoms, not the disease. Many of them live in a different universe, perceiving the world around them as a tool to achieve their goals, not as people to lead, support, protect and defend. They are a substantial number of us writ large. After all, by desire or by apathy, we put them there. But they are not the problem. They are the distraction.
I will grant you that we have some very serious problems in the governing chambers of our world. We have leaders that utterly refuse to accept the evidence in front of them that something not very good is happening to our global climate. That we are very nearly, if not past, the point of doing something effective in the short term to maintain a climate that will support us in any way recognizable. We have those who acknowledge wrong doing but somehow believe that it’s okay because, after all, it protects my team, gets what I want (but may not need), gives me a sense of getting back at the world for untold and unknown sins. How’s that working out?
There are so many other issues that are bubbling and boiling and agitated by people who have no understanding of the situation, the causes, or the results. We are like married folk, screaming at the top of our lungs because someone didn’t do the laundry right when the real issue is that there isn’t enough money to fill the gas tank and get to work. We have optical illusion of the mind and it is time, very much past time, that we stop and find a way to see the picture differently. To define the problem.
I know there are people that are going to respond that they, surely they, have their head on straight and understand the dire situation we are in. That’s nice. Really it is. I would ask you, how well are you doing at conveying those convictions to others? Do you and your hoped-for convert communicate, or do you talk past each other? Facts are not always useful in a conversation requiring reason. Yes, that is what I meant. Sometimes facts must be wrapped up in something more powerful. Sometimes the facts need to be converted into a language the other person understands. While you are showing how smart you are, they are hearing that you don’t understand their life, their needs, their fears. Sometimes direct communication doesn’t go anywhere. Sometimes you need to look somewhere other than the door in front of you.
As I approach the publication of my project on Job, I hope to convey something of the message I believe that book holds in smaller bits, and in ways that are pertinent to today’s issues. That was, after all, the point of writing the thing. I believe that the Book of Job is a call to learn. To seek out the creation in order to understand the Creator, if only a bit better. So, lets walk together and consider…and maybe learn something along the way that will help us out of this spiraling path to mutual destruction.