There are some things that we mix together until all the differences are resolved. We might swirl together black paint with white until it is mixed just right, to get the shade of grey we are shooting for. We keep mixing the sugar into the coffee until it is fully absorbed. The results, in these cases, end up swallowing up the sources: Neither color can be found; once-bitter coffee is transformed.
When I was younger, this was my way of carrying truth. It is a consistent thing to do. It leaves you with a way of expressing your views of the world that are coherent.
But if the painter always mixed all her colors and just slathered them on the canvas, visual art wouldn’t be much different than painting a wall. If a cook mixed everything into a homogenous mess, then we would not have awesome melty chocolate morsels just hanging out in biscuit-y cookies… blueberries would have to be thrown into the blender with the rest of the mix, and we would lose something.
As I grow older, I realize that sometimes the truth does not resolve, it does not average itself out. Sometimes, it is not helpful to find some sort of compromise between conflicting claims. Sometimes, I think, the right thing to do, is to carry them both: explore the boundaries between them, ponder the differences, wrestle with ways that we can do better than just find some middle ground but maybe find a way to incorporate the strengths of both positions.
A few weeks ago, my awesome church featured this great message about the third way. In this context, the third way is this attempt at including people who come down on a different side of the issue. Today, in place of a message, we had this great follow up to last week. We are exploring issues around race, discrimination, and privilige.
A few weeks ago, we thought about ways to include people we don’t agree with. Today, some wise people spoke in an impassioned way about how unreasonable it is to expect somebody who is opressed to patiently and emotionlessly express themselves: There is a burden on those in positions of power to work things out for themselves.
When I was younger, I would have wanted to jump right to a simple resolution. That would have been a bit like pureeing blueberries and mixing them fully into pancake batter. In the end, maybe that will work. But then again, maybe it is going to be best to just hold both of these things, attentively, carefully.
At least for now, I am going to sit with this apparent conflict. I wonder if you’ve got some thoughts on working this all out. There are all kinds of ways this plays out, but maybe one of the main questions is this: How do we balance being open to dialogue with others with not enabling abusers to continue in their destructive ways?