Search This Blog

Monday, October 03, 2005

Lawyers, Sweet Potatoes and Fuzzy Wuzzy's

All is not always as it appears.
I was threatened with a lawyer today for something I said. The person doing the threatening had missed my point entirely and assumed I was being critical of her. She assumed things about me that were not true based probably on her own experience of how things work out there in the "real world".

She's one of those folks who have managed to figure out the intricacies of one or more of the "good old boy" networks that are pervasive in Texas politics and local government. Membership in these networks is seductive and can lead you to believe that this is "the way things really are". I've seen the same thing happen to people who work in Austin and Washington. They get inside the corridors of power and make assumptions about "how things really are" based on their knowledge of the inside workings of what is, in essence, a closed society.

These systems are like tightly knit families. As sociologists will tell you, tightly knit families have advantages and disadvantages to those within them. First, those families create a paradigm or 'worldview' that is very powerful. Everyone is under pressure to see things the way everyone else does within the system and the system pressures its members to avoid doing anything to upset the system in any way. In exchange, the members of the group are well cared for and loved and protected. But they also give up some freedom of thought and independence of action as well in exchange.

I've been operating outside the "system" a lot lately - rattling the cages, saying things nobody's supposed to say (at least not out loud). There was the children's story about the "Emperor's New Clothes" in which a little child was the only one not so imprisoned by the mores of the empire's closed little society that only he, in his youth and ignorance of propriety, could point out that the king, was in fact, naked. The story points up the problem of how often the "way things are" isn't really the way things are at all, only how things are here because we let them be that way for our own purposes. It also points up how easily we are defrauded by people who use the system for their own purposes as the emperor was in the story.

A missionary once went to the land of the Fuzzy Wuzzy's (it's probably not politically correct to call it that anymore, but this is his story). He went to church one Sabbath with the Fuzzy Wuzzy children and to his consternation, found that the children had all apparently brought snacks to church, for each carried a sweet potato in his hands. He felt he should teach these heathen children that they should not snack in church as though it were a movie theater, so he posted himself at the back of the room and prepared to pounce on any child that attempted to break open his potato for a quick bite during the hymn singing.

But the children sat stone still throughout the singing. Then the story telling started and the missionary sharpened his watch upon the tiny worshipers, but still the children held tightly to their potatoes and no one even licked his fingers during the story. Then, the deacons were called forward for the offering. The missionary shoved his hands into his pockets and withdrew some bills and change and prepared to demonstrate to the gathered children the proper way to lay your offering in the collection plate.

Only the deacons didn't bring offering plates forward. They brought five gallon metal buckets. Mystified the missionary watched the buckets begin their journey down the aisle.

Thunk, thunk, thunk went the buckets as the children tossed their sweet potato offering in. What a marvelous drumming noise they made and the children sang softly in counterpoint to the bucket music. When one of the buckets finally came to the missionary, he looked confused and finally tossed in his dollars and his change. His offering made a pathetic little plunk and flutter. Several nearby children tittered as they noted his embarrassment.

The missionary remembered what he had learned and whenever he attended a Fuzzy Wuzzy service thereafter, he always remembered to bring his own sweet potato.

We see what we want to see and we hear what we want to hear most of the time. It's easier that way. Seeing what is truth and hearing what is really being said are difficult things to do. Sometimes to be heard we have to bring sweet potatoes to the table if we want our listeners to understand. At other times, we just have to shout it out loud that the emperor is naked. The trick is figuring out which way works best in any given situation.

It's tough being a missionary.....or a little boy!

Just one man's opinion....

Tom King

No comments: