Looking beyond the surface

One of my favorite parts about the movie “Patch Adams” that has guided my life since its release is Arthur Mendelson and his desire to get people to see beyond the four fingers he held up. We do not know at the beginning that is what he is trying to do, though. He seems like someone asking an obvious question and receiving the correct answers, but the correct answers make him angry. Mendelson had been a brilliant professor, and the doctor said that even brilliant minds can be taken. But here is the wisdom the movie brings out in Arthur: he sees beyond the surface. He did not want an obvious answer; he wanted someone to go deeper. His story demonstrates how frustrating it is to be a 4 on the enneagram in a society that does not want to go deep. The moment when Arthur gets Patch to see differently is so powerful. When Patch said eight, Arthur said: That is “a” good answer-not that is “the answer”. I am going to explain this is important right now.

Enneagram 4s have a really hard time in society because we are often misunderstood. I feel the anger Arthur Mendelson feels when he gets an obvious answer and an unjust assessment of his character. We also have a reputation for wanting to be special. That is not true–or at least, not any less true than every other number wants to be special. We are all special. We are created in the image of God; that is a big deal. But we live like we are wretched instead. This has been to our detriment. Not knowing our worth has led us to make decisions that reflect we do not value ourselves or others. Some people think narcissists love themselves too much; I think it is just the opposite-they love themselves too little. External reinforcement is all they know as validation of worth. This means there has to be a loser to elevate themselves. Donald Trump is the revealer of this pandemic we have in America. I have been clear in my lament that I am more heartbroken over the pandemic of selfishness in America than the virus. Selfishness led us here, and selfishness made it much worse.

People say numbers do not lie, people do. As someone who has worked in the world of numbers, I can say this statement is both true and untrue. The numbers hold people accountable, but just like words, numbers need to be researched and meditated on to find out what they are actually saying. Take this example: When I was at Citgo, the market was doing awesome. There were times I was going to the Controller and CEO to show how much money we were receiving from our brokers each day. Then this statement was made by the Controller: The worst thing that can happen to us is peace in the Middle East. I was stunned. I sat there trying to absorb the enormity of that statement. If this is happening because the Middle East is not at peace, then I do not want any part of this. The numbers did not tell me this story.

When I was in college, I loved Finance in theory. I realized, too late, I was not into it practically. When I went to a trading floor simulation, I hated it. It was so stressful and rigged against people who are not cutthroat. I have no desire to make as much money as possible at the expense of others and enjoyment of life. All I wanted was to enjoy the process, and there did not need to be winners and losers. After I was the Finance Executive for my sorority, I did not run for President; I became a Chaplain. Money keeps making me run away. I did end up Student Government Treasurer at OSU, though. I fought hard at the injustice of my friends’ campaign for President and Vice-President. My fighting spirit granted me an appointment. 🙂 I will fight when there is an injustice. I do not fight to win. Big difference. I have written about this in this post: Anxiety, My Story.

I am realizing this is true for too many professing Christians when it comes to living the life of faith. Too many love the idea of Jesus, but when it comes to living as he did-even doing greater things than he (John 14), that is a no-deal. Bonhoeffer has a powerful exegesis about Jesus coming to the disciples by grace. Nothing they did caused Jesus to approach them; although, I wonder if he sensed their desire for him. But what we do know is when he asked if they would follow, they left everything they were doing to follow. Immediately. They did not take time to figure out if it was cost-effective or not. That is what “let the dead bury the dead” in Matthew 8 most likely means. He was not saying do not go to a funeral, but stop trying to get everything in line before you decide if you are going to follow. Following Jesus is a way of life, not just a public confession and then you are done. That is the “cheap grace” Bonhoeffer writes so powerfully about.

When I was at Citgo, Enron was also doing well. They had a huge net income, but their cash was non-existent. When the market crashed, no amount of paper shredding was going to save them. Again, if we do not know what the numbers say, then they are just as irrelevant as un-interrogated words. We are surprised there is a major fall-out because we failed to ask what the numbers mean. I always wondered why when the market was good, everyone was still paranoid. I know now they knew their house was built on sand. That is the problem with the God of Mammon when that is our God. We know it is just a matter of time before we lose, so we are cruel to others and make them pay the price for our own insecurities. Why are so many resisting a future with cleaner fuels? Because we have no imagination or experience of love that tells us not to fear and to go into the unknown. But, we need to set up our society to have a safety net to allow this to happen. This “dog eat dog” mentality we have is killing us. It was not just me who hated that trading floor. Most people do. That is why corrupt people get those jobs and are cheating! And we keep voting for them, because we have not interrogated them or the numbers.

This is important on every level. Yesterday, I posted this on Facebook:

False equivalencies are a result of us wanting to “both sides” everything. I really haven’t listened to much news or anything to make my mind work too hard today, but I saw two things that just hit me and made me want to say something. The one that sent me to write this is Biden mispronouncing psalmist. And now people are saying it’s a Two Corinthian moment. First of all, the message Biden was presenting was actually about love. Trump was making a play with the word Liberty and used a Bible verse to make them feel like winners. The actual common problem is not their mistakes—it’s preaching. Why are our Presidents preaching? They represent all faiths, and those who claim no faith. It’s great to be informed by your faith, and I believe Biden is more than Trump (that’s not saying a lot-but), but they are not our pastors. Find a way to make your faith speak to every person who is represented. Because they are the leader of all of us. Biden did not make the same mistake as Trump, though. The two gaffes were under two completely different spirits, and we need to start testing the spirits (1 John).

Look deeper than the surface. The other issue I saw was comparing abortion stats with Covid deaths. Not the same thing at all. Meaningless numbers side by side. Here is what I wrote on Twitter:

Nothing is taking my joy away tonight, but I want to say one thing, and it is a subtweet. I’ve engaged before and it did not go well because her followers are radicalized. Covid deaths should not be compared to abortion. Abortion is way more complex than our poor leadership with Covid. First of all, abortion had been decreasing because we were moving forward with policies that address issues that are involved with abortion. There were more safety restrictions in place on college campuses to protect the vulnerable from rape. Betsy DeVos scaled that back. Abortion is largely tied to poverty. We give the rich tax breaks and limit food stamps for the hungry! Women may lose their jobs or not be able to afford healthcare to carry the baby to term. And this is just addressing preventable abortions. There are reasons beyond our imaginations as to what is going on. This rhetoric is so dangerous for women. We need to interrogate why we tell stories like this about women. I am writing a paper about this. Women can be trusted.

Test the spirits means look beyond the surface. There is no right answer, but lots of other ways to explore and imagine.

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