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When you live the life of a wandering preacher, you figure out a few prickly things as you go. One of the things that used to catch me up was description.
When we describe, we take a verbal picture of something. If you know anything about picture making, you know the final result says more about the maker than the subject.
And there lies the trouble.
Sometimes, you create a division that doesn’t exist. There is a flash of lightning. But can you separate the lightning from the flash? Can one exist without the other?
Another problem is focal point. Often, we focus on distinguishing features, small differences that make the subject unique. But when we do this, we magnify those differences, distorting our view of the subject, and maybe even the world.
I had this same problem with The Master’s little brother. Everyone called him The Just. I just called him “J” which used to really piss him off. J was very pious, a real rules kind of guy. And he was a bit pompous, wandering around in a white suit and an enormous white hat. Anyway, The Master never really wanted him around much.
After The Master died, J’s kinship put him at the head of the Organization. He had the least experience at the work, but he ran things competently enough. That was all his followers wanted.
But J and the group didn’t want anyone different to join. No matter how fervently people believed in The Master’s message, if they didn’t follow the same rituals or were born outside the group, they stayed out.
J and his followers focused on the details and missed the big picture.
But when I talked with new people—women, slaves, and the poor and powerless, the same people The Master talked with—I saw the same fears and concerns as our own people. I saw us. J saw them.
Back and forth it went, J’s group insisting on everyone following the same rules—and some pretty punitive ones, too, involving knives and body parts no adult male wants trimmed—and me trying to open things up.
By this time, I had a lot more people organized than they did, and all across the known world. I was making a lot of noise. Maybe they were worried that they’d be overwhelmed. Finally, they sent me a Cease and Desist order. They called me to a big meeting at Headquarters.
It started in the afternoon, and we argued and haggled and screamed at each other all night. Finally, we came to an arrangement. I could continue organizing and signing up new members, and they didn’t have to follow the most painful rituals. In turn, I had to send them a portion of all the contributions raised by my chapters.
It was a very worldly solution, which I found both sad and funny.
published 15 November 2011
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