Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Cut off the end of the Ham!

Written by: on September 26, 2012

There is a joke that has been around for quite a while.  A young man is helping in the kitchen, watching his new bride prepare a ham for Sunday dinner.  As the wife cuts off an inch from each end, the husband asks why.  She replies that it must make the ham more delicious.  She continues saying, her mother did it this way and so did her mother’s mother, so it must be a handed-down secret to great cooking.  Later the husband finds the grandmother and asks her, “why did you cut the ends of the ham off”.  She replied, “Honey, because my old pot was too small.  That’s the only way it would fit!”

I’ve heard that joke many times, usually when pastors and leaders are talking about change – not doing things the way we’ve always done before.  But it’s also sad, because it shows how we are affected by our context and environment as in the way Pierre Bourdieu spoke of “habitus,” or the way we do things by habit without remembering why – how personal taste and the idea of “this is the way we’ve always done it” play into our behavior.

In some ways, using this joke in an illustration represents older time and place, and indicates that probably the person who tells it is of the “Fourth World,” in which Castells spoke of regarding the Networked Society.  Manuel Castells stated that as globalization continues at an increasing pace, many will be left behind and excluded from the global society.  When we still refer to change using old expressions and outdated, non-technological mind pictures (such as the old joke), we are showing that we haven’t made the jump to understanding that it’s the networks, globalization and increased mobilization that shape our society today.  People who haven’t yet made that jump represent the “Fourth World.”

This lack of becoming global citizens, in other words, Fourth World citizens, leads to the writings of Castells and Urry on Globalization.  I concur with both sociologists, but especially John Urry when he speaks of two types of networks; Global Integrated Networks and Global Fluids.  The first is structured and planned while the latter is open to change and moves with the culture.  Multi-national corporations and even large church denominations would prefer that that the world operates through Global Integrated Networks, in other words, with order and purpose.  But the reality of life tends to lean more toward the Global Fluids and the unpredictable forces of individuals as they use the internet and networks to put forth a variety of social issues.

I am uncertain as to who will end up the greatest influencer in this “game” – the Networks or the Fluids, but although globalization to an extent can occur electronically, I believe both still need a personal presence or face-to-face interaction for true adaptation.

One of our cohorts, Chris, flew to South Africa this past week.  In a few days I am bound for Brazil.  We travel to far-away places because many of us still believe that there is power in presence, in which Globalization occurs by people mingling and sharing ideas in person.  But maybe those of us who travel are old-fashioned, like the wife cutting of the ends of the ham, doing things like we’ve always done them, operating in the Fourth World.  Instead, maybe the Global Cosmopolitans – those who don’t leave a geographic location but who operate among intercultural communicative preferences and whose online global presence is changing the world – will be the future “globetrotters.”

Only time will tell how the future will look.  However as globalization increases, through greater possibilities of travel and communication or through an ever increasing electronic presence, the world has changed forever and the joke about the ham seems less humorous each time I hear it

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