Tuesday, April 8, 2008

I'm a gadfly.

"You should have eyes that always seek an enemy, your enemy. And some of you hate at first sight.  Your enemy you shall seek, your war you shall wage--for your thoughts. And if your thought be vanquished, then your honesty should still find cause for triumph in that.  You should love peace as a means to new wars-- and the short peace more than the long." (page 159)

"In a friend one should have one's best enemy. You should be closest to him with your heart when you resist him." (page 168)

"He loves his enemies; this art he understands best of all whom I have ever seen. But he takes revenge for this on his friends."  (page 415)

Friedrich Nietzsche
Thus Spoke Zarathustra (The Portable Nietzsche)


Sometimes I wonder if I talk too much. I can remember, when I was younger, actually choosing to talk, not so much as to add to a conversation, but more to seem intelligent. I'm better at judging my motives now, but I don't pretend to be perfect. Now I try to weigh the actual benefit and necessity of my interjection of a new idea or perspective into a conversation before I open my mouth. There are times when, even if I disagree with what is being said, there is no net positive impact to be had from my questioning of or disagreement with others.

Lately I've been speaking up in various contexts a bit more than I have in the past. One situation that I was particularly worried about, actually turned out very well. I was in a group of people discussing church finances and participation in congregational life. When we began to discuss "Best Practices" in getting people to commit I was the final one to speak. I told them that for people of my generation (I was the only person under 40, and just barely at that) it was meaningless to speak of commitment to supporting the congregation outside the context of Mission (what does the congregation stand for and what is it doing in the community?). I was initially gently and gracefully deflected by the leader of the meeting, and then she had to step away for a few minutes. Others present then began to talk about Mission and when the leader returned she began to speak to it's importance as well. I was surprised. If I had done that in my previous religious context, conservative evangelicalism, it would probably have elicited a pretty lively disagreement.

There are those in my life that I do this with on a one-on-one basis, and I can be brutal in my deconstruction of sacred cows. One of my problems is that I enjoy the process. I like to analyze positions and see if I can find cracks in them. I then proceed to see just how big of a crack I can create. I also think turn-about is fair-play. I appreciate those that show me where my blind spots are, where what I have assumed was solid rock is nothing more than paper. A way I describe it to some is that sometimes compassion comes at you with a big knife. I will additionally purposely expose myself to views with which I know I will disagree. I'm not talking about watered down representations, but intelligent, educated, articulate proponents of positions that I disagree with. I figure that if my faith, or view on another topic, is really based on anything of substance it will stand up to the onslaught. I've seemed to survive thus far. I've had to jettison some minor pieces of my world-view that I no longer believed that I could in good conscience support, but I seem to be better for it so far.

When I provide this "service" to my friends I like to think I'm doing them a favor by showing them the weaknesses in their world-views. However, sometimes I wonder if I'm not just going into someone's house, the only place they have to live, and tearing down a few walls, some of them exterior, and then walking away. This is not to mention the fact that I might simply be better at rhetoric than some people, and totally lack the self awareness to know I'm dead wrong.

To speak, or not to speak...?  Am I contributing to people's lives, or am I causing destruction, either in self deluded compassion or for my own entertainment?  The tension can be taxing.  That being said, I think it would be more worrisome if I readily 'knew' the answer.

1 comment:

Joshua said...

you're a funny guy...

without doubt, my home is missing several exterior walls but the draft really isn't so bad anymore and i rather like the sunshine on my face

besides, you know when you've punched too many holes... people generally flee the room in tears sobbing something about heresy and hell...

:-)