The New Year: a turning point that welcomes the new and allows us to hand over or say farewell to the past, which is not forgotten but less gripping as we seek to progress in our journey forward.
A couple of months ago I was at a community lunch and found myself absorbed in a conversation with a theologian who also happens to be a priest. I was curious about a theological topic she obviously had spent time researching and held close to her heart; I asked if she didn’t mind telling me more about it. When her explanation drew to a close, I made the blunder of offering a contending perspective.
“That’s completely unfounded!” her resonant voice boomed before I had much of a chance to explain.
Having grown up with a professorial father who regularly made it his duty to ‘critically examine’ new ideas I was naive enough to disclose, the assertion that my claim was baseless caught me a little off-guard but did not offend me. Having lost my ‘foundation’ in the conversation with this person, my follow-up reaction was to laugh–quite heartily–and to exaggeratedly emphasize how discreditable my idea must be to the point where my interlocutor realized I risked bringing the mood of the discussion towards absurdity. It all happened in a matter of 15 seconds and somehow we all collectively (for there were bystanders too) managed to transition towards a new topic of interest. (Got to love community lunches!)
I hadn’t given this conversation much subsequent thought until I came across this article last night, which explains while at large we propose to admire and seek creativity but in fact and deed we simply do not. Recalling my ‘unfounded’ idea, I asked myself why did this theologian-priest prefer to discredit it immediately instead of entertaining, even for a brief moment, its potential value, maybe requesting further information, or, to be academic, a ‘defense’? Wanting to give her (and the universe at large) the benefit of the doubt, I shall fault my ownself not because I offered a contending idea to begin but rather because I took my interlocutor’s accusation of unfoundedness as a conversation stopper. What if I had instead chosen to read her exclamation as a challenge to defend or reveal myself? What if I had insisted to ‘found’ my view?
As far as I know, we’re finite beings living in a finite world, and where there’s newness, creation and creativity, there’s an associated letting go and destruction of the old and established. Scary stuff.
Yet not so scary, I remind myself, when I remember that God oversees and infuses the process; and for God all things are possible. If you think about it, there’s a lot of bleep in the world you may like to see come to its end–I shall let you fill in the personal and political blanks.
It can be a lonely world for creatives (yes, we’re all creative, but some of us carry this gift less normatively or conformatively than others). And I guess it’s supposed to be that way. The impulse to create rubs up against and contends with a void. It is motivated by a feeling that a source for something all-fulfilling exists, but not for all of us to experience fully and immediately and in the same way; so whatever we’re hearing, seeing, etc. can only be shared piece by piece as it slowly manifests, sputtering out successes and failures in turn along the way. While we hold the vision and shoulder the burden of ‘proof’, we can certainly expect to be designated ‘unfounded!’.