Thursday, May 8, 2008

The whole truth and nothing but the truth

There's an old joke about three blind men in a room with an elephant. Asked to describe the elephant, the first man put his hand on its trunk, and he said: "This creature is like a water-pipe." The hand of the second touched its ear, so to him the elephant appeared to be like a fan. The third, who handled its leg, said: "The elephant is shaped like a pillar."

As humans, we often mistake the one aspect of truth that we can perceive to be truth itself, and allow that assumption to blind us to the whole truth. It is as if we were to come to a door, and instead of opening the door to the magic on the other side, we declared the door to be our destiny.

Such a beautiful door, we say; so old and venerable. Obviously many people have touched this door; it must be very special. This color has meaning; I will fill my life with this color! Ah, this white patch is like a window to the soul!

We stand and admire the door, forgetting that it is only a portal to that which lies before us, and eventually the handle grows rusty from years of disuse and we forget it ever led anywhere.

I think for many people religion falls into this category: We get caught up in our own particular church building; our own particular interpretation of the Bible; our own particular dogma. And even for me, though I get that faith and God are more than I am taking in at any one moment, I seem to be only able to deal with one or at most two aspects of faith and spirituality at a time.

My years of exposure to the soft and occasionally smelly underbelly of the organized church have taught me that there is always more to the picture than what we see in any given moment. And I do my best to carry that awareness out into my world. But, being human and imperfect, I am not always successful about holding some awareness of the larger picture. And though I like to think I'm getting better at this as I age, I cannot but be aware that in some ways this is a mixed blessing: it seems now that the bigger the picture I can retain, the fuzzier the details become.

It's sort of like what happens when you enlarge a digital image. There comes a point when the bits get so huge that the image has grown terribly fuzzy, and it takes a good deal of distance to interpret it. You need to get far enough away from it to put it back into perspective.

So if I were to enlarge this image of the door, I would have to step further back from it to see the details of it. And stepping further back is the last thing I want to do: what I REALLY want is to open the door and walk out into the light. Because, though it resembles light that white patch is only the appearance of light.

It's time I grabbed that rusty handle and pulled; time for all of us to stop being content with the appearance of faith, the illusion of openness, the pretense of hope. It's time to take the risk, do the work, drag out the oil can if necessary; to grab the handle, pull, and step through the doorway of "church" into the arena of faith and hope that lies beyond.

1 comment:

Angela Wales Rockett said...

Ooooh, I love this image, Diane! You're so right about the similarities too, in the images, and also in our spiritual lives, it sounds like.