The way we listen determines what, if anything, we learn.
That truth nugget is fleshed out beautifully by this story.
“When I was young my father said to me: “Knowledge is Power….Francis Bacon”
I understood it as “Knowledge is power, France is Bacon”.
For more than a decade I wondered over the meaning of the second part and what was the surreal linkage between the two? If I said the quote to someone, “Knowledge is power, France is Bacon” they nodded knowingly. Or someone might say, “Knowledge is power” and I’d finish the quote “France is Bacon” and they wouldn’t look at me like I’d said something very odd but thoughtfully agree.
I did ask a teacher what did “Knowledge is power, France is bacon” mean and got a full 10 minute explanation of the Knowledge is power bit but nothing on “France is bacon”. When I prompted further explanation by saying “France is Bacon?” in a questioning tone I just got a “yes”. at 12 I didn’t have the confidence to press it further. I just accepted it as something I’d never understand. It wasn’t until years later I saw it written down that the penny dropped.” (- Lard_Baron of Reddit)
I really admire that kid. Mostly, for sharing that story. But also, for keeping at it.
He was pretty sure that something wasn’t right, so he kept trying to find out what it was. Now, if he had just come out and asked somebody, he would have saved himself some trouble. But then we wouldn’t have that story. And I’m glad we do.
Several years ago when we were living in Ohio, I was driving back to the church after lunch, and traffic came to a quick stop. The person in front of me stopped. The person in front of them stopped. I came to a complete stop. Then the person in back of me stopped too. By driving into the back of my car at 40 mph.
I climbed out of my car and I stood in the small center median looking at the damage. My car was pretty banged up. Her car appeared to be totaled. We were both basically ok. But I could already feel that I had hit my neck and head.
That day I learned something about myself. That apparently when things are not at all fine, I decide to tell myself that I am fine, and I become what Dave would lovingly call “a little stubborn.” So as I stood there in the median next to my wrecked car as they tried to put a neck brace on me, Dave received the following phone call. “Hi! It’s me. I got in a little car accident but everything is fine and I am definitely fine so no need to come. Love you!” Click.
This was the phone call I made about 20 seconds before they helped me into the ambulance to go get checked out, just before the tow truck arrived to take my car.
Truth: I wasn’t fine.
My own perception: Nothing to worry about here. It’s just a regular day.
Lucky for me, I have a wonderful husband who knows that the more I say I am fine, the less likely that is to be true, and he was there in a minute standing next to me. What did I learn that day, besides what it feels like to get whiplash?
Even I am not the best judge of who I am or how I am really doing.
It would seem like the best source of information about myself would be me, but it turns out that even I can’t always be trusted. Even I don’t always know what’s true, even when it’s about me.
Some of our disagreements just come down to the way we see things, or hear things.And there are things like the dress and the audio clip, that just don’t really matter, and it’s funny, and we can just appreciate how different we are.
But there are some things we disagree about with people that we can’t just dismiss as a difference of opinion. They matter far more than what color a dress is.
But at the same time, the way that we have been talking about these important matters just isn’t working.
So how are we supposed to disagree when it’s about morality, or science or religion?
I remember the first time I disobeyed a posted sign. I felt like such a rebel.
Signs are really powerful for us. But the signs I want to talk about today aren’t the flat signs with words and warnings printed on them.
I want to talk about the kinds of signs we look for, and listen for, that let us know if someone else is a part of our tribe, or not.
Like the way people dress.
There are all kinds of signs that are indicators, that create an in-group and an out-group. There are all kinds of signs that say, “You’re either with us, or you’re against us. And they’re not always physical signs.
The way we dress, or talk, what we talk about, who we listen to, who we hate…all of these things are signs that say what group we belong to. All of these things are signs that tell us who we are.
Signs and the belonging they signify are powerful, so powerful that they short-circuit our ability to reason and they short circuit our faith. Signs pre-determine what we believe to be true.