I spent last weekend at the Affirmation leadership retreat in Independence, Missouri. During our closing devotional, I shared some remarks that I didn’t record and can’t precisely recall. I do remember, at least, that I shared these three literary gems that hold meaning for me. I share them hoping the same for you.
Tao Te Ching, Chapter 11 – Lao Tzu
Thirty spokes share the wheel’s hub;
It is the center hole that makes it useful.
Shape clay into a vessel;
It is the space within that makes it useful.
Cut doors and windows for a room;
It is the holes which make it useful.
Therefore benefit comes from what is there;
Usefulness from what is not there.
Four Stages of Community – M. Scott Peck
Cited in Community of Christ’s Faithful Disagreement Lessons
The essential dynamic of pseudocommunity is conflict avoidance. Members are extremely pleasant with one another and avoid all disagreement. People, wanting to be loving, withhold some of the truth about themselves and their feelings to avoid conflict. Individual differences are minimized, unacknowledged, or ignored. The group may appear to be functioning smoothly but individuality, intimacy, and honesty are crushed. Generalizations and platitudes are characteristic of this stage.
Once individual differences surface, the group almost immediately moves into chaos. The chaos centers around well-intentioned but misguided attempts to heal and convert. Individual differences come out in the open and the group attempts to obliterate them. It is a stage of uncreative and unconstructive fighting and struggle. It is no fun. It is common for members to attack not only each other but also their leader, and it is common for one or more members—invariably to propose an “escape into organization”—to attempt to replace the designated leader. However, as long as the goal is true community, organization as an attempted solution to chaos is unworkable.
The way through chaos to true community is through emptiness. It is the hardest and most crucial stage of community development. It means members empty themselves of barriers to communication. The most common barriers are expectations and preconceptions; prejudices; ideology, theology and solutions; the need to heal, fix, convert, or solve; and the need to control. The stage of emptiness is ushered in as members begin to share their own brokenness—their defeats, failures, and fears, rather than acting as if they “have it all together.”
True community emerges as the group chooses to embrace not only the light but life’s darkness. True community is both joyful and realistic. The transformation of the group from a collection of individuals into true community requires little deaths in many of the individuals. But it is also a time of group death, group dying. Through this emptiness—this sacrifice— comes true community. “In this final stage a soft quietness descends. It is a kind of peace. The room is bathed in peace.” Members begin to speak of their deepest and most vulnerable parts—and others will simply listen. There will be tears of sorrow and tears of joy. An extraordinary amount of healing begins to occur.
No More Oil For You – Jonathan Arnell, age ~7
Once there was a duck that was named Dordy that lived at the beach. It was his birthday so they got to go and play in the water.
“I don’t want to!” Dordy said. “I’ve lost all my oil!” Just then it started to rain. “Now I can’t even go outside without getting wet!” he said.
So they went out and got in the car to go to the doctor’s office. “I see, you have lost your oil,” he said.
“My ex-best friend Dodo took it!” he screamed. So doctor Drake gave him an umbrella and Dordy took it home.
He didn’t like carrying it around because it was so heavy so he just didn’t go outside when it was raining.