Friday, March 8, 2013

There must be one more truth.

      In that amazing piece of 1970's theological and cultural reflection, "Jesus Christ Superstar," Jesus stands before Pilate. In his 'defense' before the Roman governor, Jesus claims that "I look for truth and find that I get damned." Pilate responds "What is truth? Is truth unchanging law? We both have truths. Are mine the same as yours? And, certainly, whenever I recall that, I remember the story of the blind men and the elephant, each describing their 'truth' about the elephant ("Its's a rope." "It's a tree." etc.), none of them, of course, getting the thing completely right.
       Last evening, I was participating on a panel at a local private elementary school. The panelists were responding to questions from parents, provoked by viewing a documentary called "Anyone and Everyone". The documentary recounts the stories of several families from around the country, of various ethnicities and religious backgrounds, all of whom had to come to grips with their son or daughter coming out as a homosexual. One of the moms, a Mormon, talked about the "truths" that she had been taught by her church, and how those were confronted by the "truth" of her son's orientation. She said to the camera something to the effect that "When the truth you've learned doesn't square with reality, there must be one more truth."
       That phrase, "There must be one more truth . . ." has wormed its way into me over the last several hours. But it is really nothing less than a statement of my experience. The number of times I've anticipated an appointment, being absolutely certain of the expected reason, and then being surprised either by "factual" or emotional content is astounding . . . and humbling.
       Earlier this week, I spent several days at a workshop on a particular application ofAppreciative Inquiry. For those readers who are unfamiliar with AI, it is methodology for managing change (in an organization or group or individual), based on what good things, or strengths, already exist in the organization/group/individual. In other words, it's not about "problem solving", but rather strengths-maximization. And one of the means used to determine those strengths is through story-telling. So we told each other a lot of stories and, listening to those stories -- even on different topics, told by different people -- I was mesmerized by the variety of experiences, the variety of realities, the varieties of "truth" that came out. And, in having people listen to me, I was equally surprised that, in their reflections on MY story, they recognized an entirely different "truth" than I intended. Their perspective and mine, put together, created a much richer picture than either of ours separately.
       My story, my truth, isn't the only one. I regularly make it practice to put my story in conversation with a larger one, whether it be scripture or poetry or a scientific article. I generally come away changed. That's my hope, at least, when I encounter yet one more truth.


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