Examination or Consternation? This is a true story told me by a new parishioner. Many years ago there was a Sexton who was very possessive of the church bell. He argued that the yoke on which the bell hung was in need of repair and had to be rung in a certain way (that only he himself could do) lest the bell flipped over and jammed. One night the Sexton’s house caught on fire. The church bell was usually used to warn the village of such occurrences and as the Sexton was too occupied to ring it, his house was greatly damaged.
Now and then our chosen goal or directive, made with all good intention (usually), and which worked well for a period of time, can outlast its viability. This is an important consideration when looking to revitalize a program or community. When this principle is combined with courage, creative explosion happens.
I mentioned courage because it often takes courage to evaluate a condition with an open mind. Some will know of the French writer Voltaire (1694-1778). He was a profound free spirit, whose witty literary attacks on the conventional Catholic Church resulted in imprisonment. I mention Voltaire because the relentless processing he exemplified is vital for the ongoing creative development of oneself and the community or organization within which one is called to leadership.
It takes gutsy management and an open-minded, open hearted, passion for truth to bring into being any renewal or ‘evolution’ (as I sometimes prefer to more succinctly call it). It was said that on Voltaire’s deathbed, when an RC priest came to give him the last rites, and in that act asked him to denounce Satan, Voltaire responded, “Now is not the time for making new enemies”.
Voltaire knew himself well, and through self-reflection, critical thinking, and a burning desire for truth, helped usher in the period of Enlightenment. What was once an unquestioned way of religious life (with notable success) increasingly became a prison (for many). What was once a solution for protecting the story of Jesus became an impediment to spiritual development. Consequently Voltaire found acceptance from those who longed for freedom of religion and freedom of expression.
Theory warns us that a solution can become the problem. And the more we struggle to make the solution work (to our expectation) the further away from success we find ourselves. In this scenario determination has become more important than intention; and the question of “how to” becomes more important than the “why should we”.
If determination was the only basis of success many of us, both in our personal lives or in our corporate life, would be smiling less anxiously. As I see it, Voltaire’s gift was not just his spirited witty energy, but also his open-minded, open-hearted courage to wisely examine that which is most significant.