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Sidedness is natural, but let’s mind the gap when we board the bias bus

We’re born discriminating, distinguishing, and differentiating because we’re born very, very near-sighted.

Our first job in life is to distinguish ourselves from the world. To determine what’s us and not them. This hand I see, the one that moved when I thought ‘move’, it moved! That hanging thing that flung when I thought the move and meant ‘fling’, I did that! That hand belongs to me!

But that face I see, that gets close, big and round and noisy, what is it? It doesn’t move when I think move. I can reach out and touch it, but it’s separate from me. It’s different from me. It’s not part of me. It’s not me.

Who am I? What am I? This is the objective of growth.

We learn to walk, in baby steps. Tipping, teetering, flailing, falling because we’re born very, very imbalanced.

Our second job in life is to move in our world. The challenge is keeping our balance. Footholds are unsure and pavement is uneven. Our eyes learn to distinguish what is taller, what is shorter. This is closer; that is further. Spatial discrimination allows us to judge where to put our foot, how long to stride, so we can gauge how far to go, and how far we’ve gone.

Where am I? How did I get here? This is the objective of movement.

We learn to run, faster, slower, modulating effort based on terrain and conditioning because we enter the race with very little sense of pace.

Our third job in life is to navigate in our world.  Now with distance vision, we wonder…Where to go. What to take with us. How much to give. How much to take. What’s it worth to you? What’s it worth to me? If there is a cost, can I pay it? Can I absorb it? What’s the proper response? How do you react when I say this or do that?

Not only am I not you, but I don’t know you.
I’m different from you, distinct from you.
I don’t think like you do.
Don’t dress like you do.
Don’t worship like you do.
Didn’t know that about you.
Didn’t know that about me.

Whoa. Then who am I?
I’m sure not you.
That’s cool! Tell me about you.

Our fourth job in life is to find our place. Look what I can do! I prefer my right hand. I favor my left foot. My right eye is dominant, but I’m left-brained. When I fold my hands, I put my right thumb on top. Oh my gosh…you don’t?! I thought everybody did. What else can’t you do?

Can you roll your tongue? Can you whistle? Can you snap? Can you make the Vulcan sign, “Live long and proper.” Sure you can. It’s like this. Let me show you. But some really can’t. Whoa. If this is preferred over that, and he is favored over her, then which side am I on? Because there’s a winning side and I want to be on it.

The world takes over there. It rewards and punishes. It dichotomizes. It separates. And the bias we came with – our ability to differentiate, to distinguish self from not self, foreground from background, distant from nearby – what was intended for our growth, ambulation, and navigation, which were all meant for our distinction, is adulterated. It becomes our nature to use it for our advantage.

We are created human, propelled into being. When we take sides, we down-shift into doing. We throttle down, engine roaring, we sprint to the finish line, plowing through our fellow humans. Each of those has dreams, as we do. Each strains to hear that singular hushed voice which hopes.

But that’s not our voice.

Our voice has volume.
Our eyes are narrowed.
Our minds are focused.
On what we already know.
We look for confirmation of what we’ve already decided.
We listen for affirmation of what we already admire.

we are supporters.
we are fans.
we’ve taken sides.

Bias? Why yes. we were born with it.
Bias is natural, but it’s not terminal.
It need not be fatal.
Mind the gap.

The Writing is On the Wall

Does anyone here read cursive?

Apparently they’re not teaching it to most elementary school students these days. This has created quite a stir and not a small amount of dissension among ‘old-timers’ who don’t want this stalwart to go and ‘new-timers’ who say its time has passed. Recently, scientists have suggested that script hand-writing, with its flow of connecting the letters, may tap into our learning and creativity in ways that printing and typing cannot. Old world meet new.

Call me old-fashioned but I do write in cursive when I pen notes and letters to friends, colleagues and pen pals. It’s where I began as a writer. Often those notes seemed to say way more than I wrote in them to the one who received them. I think my brain region for cursive script might be very near the prayer center. Anyway, I do resort to printing when writing to the younger generation because I’m told they sometimes have a hard time deciphering cursive. Or maybe it’s just that my hand-writing is deteriorating.

Daniel - writing on the wallThis comes to mind as I read from Daniel 5, the story of a Babylonian king gone so wrong that a mystical hand appears at the banquet he hosts for a thousand of his nobles and begins writing a message on the plaster wall of the royal palace. Apparently it’s not good news and the king knows it; a guilty conscience has him shaking in his sandals. Give the king credit, he really wants to know what the message says, but there’s not a soul at the royal table who can read cursive (or perhaps Aramaic in this case).

“Bring the enchanters, the Chaldeans, the diviners! I’ll pay handsomely whomever can decipher this!” orders the King, as if this was invisible ink and a black light can enlighten the words and translate the secret code. As it turns out, this is difficult script; no translator can be found. Intrigue abounds and the plot thickens. The writing is on the wall…what could it mean?

Pause here: Now who doesn’t love a good mystery? The fingers of a human hand etching an unknown message. This is great theater. So much so that the phrase “the writing on the wall” has not limited itself to script or scripture, but found its way into the common lexicon. People who have never read the Bible may huddle in the face of dire times and lament, “Well, the writing is on the wall.” Urban dictionary translation: the jilt is up, what’s gonna be already is, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

But fortunately for King Belshazzar, terrified and pale, his queen comes to the rescue. “May the king live forever!” she says (ironically). “Don’t be alarmed! Don’t look so pale! There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the time of your father he was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods… Daniel was found to have a keen mind and knowledge and understanding, and also the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles and solve difficult problems. Call for Daniel, and he will tell you what the writing means.”

This Daniel, one of the old-timer exiles brought from Judah, could in fact read the script, having probably inscribed some cursive on scrolls of old. He, without new age divination or enchantment and without calling on the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, called instead on the God he knew would send the Holy Spirit to interpret the words before the king. 

This is what he read: mene, mene, tekel, parsin.

Without mincing words, Daniel informed the king that:

  1. Your days are numbered.
  2. You have been weighed and found wanting.
  3. A kingdom divided shall not stand.

If that’s not a sign of the times, then I don’t know what is. The writing is on the wall. Once we know what it says, we’d do well to acknowledge that we, God’s people and all God’s children in these days, have wandered in our own ways. We have a lot of mending to do.

Does anyone still read script?

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