Question 127 of 365: Whose hands are we in?

I used to have trouble reading. Not with the words that were on the page or with figuring out the metaphorical language either. I had trouble listening to what the author had to say. I constantly let my world view crowd out anything that was being intended. It can be said, that for a time, I couldn’t read.

Specifically, I couldn’t read Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. I couldn’t understand that there could have been a time when people thought of God as only angry and not filled with grace and love. I kept apologizing for the author. I kept on injecting my evangelical upbringing into the equasion because that is the only way that it made sense. My background blinded me to the truth that was meant to strike fear into anyone that heard those words. When I spoke from this ignorant perspective, my English teacher corrected me, and rightfully so. He wanted me to be able to see what was really there and not what I was putting there in its place.

I would like to think that I can read now, that I can listen to everything that is coming in and respond to it as truth. I would like to believe that my response to the world is not of replacing reality with my own, but in responding to the reality that other represent so that we can all exist without modification.

But, I’m not sure I still can read things while I suspend my own world view. I’m not sure that I can have conversations without my narrow-minded focus getting in the way.

Today, I had a discussion about the virtues of collaboration, as I do on many days. This time, though, I monopolized the conversation because people were looking to me for possibilities. I brought forward options for co-authoring a resource. I put together a collaborative document, and then let the idea fly.

My question is, what didn’t I read by doing this?

What world-view, no matter how steeped in my own experience, is causing me to keep reliving the same event with my English teacher all those years ago. Back then, I was told I was wrong. Today… nothing.

The biggest reason for it is that I didn’t allow allow silence to occur as it naturally would as people are thinking. Akward pauses do not mean that people have nothing to contribute, but I treated them that way. I didn’t allow the pause to mean as much as the note (to borrow one of my favorite musical metaphors). If I was half the collaborator that I am claiming to be, I would have let people not talk for more than 30 seconds. I would have asked people their stories about their own co-creative endeavors. I would have not tried to “push-back” on others ideas, but simply listen and try to absorb what it is important.

Here is one thing that I believe: All the world is a text.

Not a stage or a performance or a game or a challenge. The world is a text, to be read and understood. To be listened to and noted. It doesn’t need my additions in order to be complete. It needs me to underline and annotate. It needs me to put up sticky notes and tell others just how great it is.

And if the world is a text, I need to read it better. The information is there, I just have to try and figure out what it is telling me.

So, here is what I would like to do:

1. Take 1 e-mail a week and try to figure out with other people exactly what is being communicated. I would like to dissect the diction and parse the syntax. I would like to analyze the stories and try and see the significance of the words. I would like to ascertain the author’s purpose and use all of this information to better figure out just what the relationship is between the sender and myself.

2. Take a single meeting a week and not talk. I would like to take copious notes on everything that I hear, but I would like the luxury of not talking in at least one meeting a week. I would like to use this time to hone my listening and contextualizing skills.

3. Draw a lot. I am a terrible artist, but there is nothing that is so honest as a few chicken scratches. I don’t feel awkward about being wrong in a drawing. I can represent the texts that I see around me, and be proud that I am doing my best to represent them alone because I don’t know how to be more artful. In writing, I can make things more descriptive (and perhaps deceptive) than they really are. In a crappy drawing, they are what they are.

In the end, I want to be in the hands of anyone that is angry. I want to get caught up in the text of those experiences. I want to know them intimately and believe that they are someone’s truth. Those hands are the only kind that matter to me at this point because the hands that I chose to create only support an increibly small amount. I want big strong hands, those that support everything we need to experience the texts around us.

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  1. eclepic

    Who defines the dominant narrative? In America, there are people (white, male, Protestant, native English speakers, extroverts) who are more heard more readily by a broader audience than other speakers. But, who has more power, the author or the re-interpreter? I've become wary of the thought that there is a power differential between the inspired and inspirer (the women's movement has had great effect). I wonder, were you actually dominating the discourse by providing the possibilities or were you being hospitable and setting out the ingredients for others to cook with? But you were concerned you were playing both roles? Your points are very very well taken – and I think your aims are admirable – and certainly I agree that the capacity to function as speaker and as listener is important to develop…and cannot be done without listening and leaving blank pages, even margins. And still, your proposed active listening silence is miles apart from a withholding pause or non-generative detachment. Ramble – could talk for hours about this post!

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