The Discipline of Disorientation: Lessons from Wicked and Puritans
Disorienting. This is the best word I can find to describe The Silk Roads and its effect upon me. Frankopan takes on a mammoth challenge to tell the long, convoluted history of the silk roads throughout Asia and the Middle East and to “inspire those who read this book to look at history in a different way.”
I liken the disorientation to seeing the Broadway show Wicked years ago. Prior to, I had considered the story of The Wizard of Oz to be quite simple. It fit neatly into my dichotomous world as a child – good (as in Dorothy and Glenda) and bad (as in the wicked witches). But the story of Wicked disrupted all of that. Things were not as neat and tidy in the land of Oz in light of this backstory. Categories of good and evil suddenly became messy.
I experienced a similar sensation recently while researching Puritans and their view of work. I had some predisposed ideas about what I would find, aided by our culture’s caricatures and Weber’s more academic sketch. Should be fairly easy to have this group of people figured out by the end of it, I thought. But no, it was not easy. I endeavored to keep an open stance as I dove into the research but really wanted a tidy conclusion. In the end, I could not make a broad, sweeping judgment about them. As soon as I found “evidence” that they were obsessed with work, I would find the opposite. How tiresome.
It is frustrating to not be able to draw a hard line and land on an absolute. Were the Puritans a positive or negative force for the cause of Christ? Were they motivated by love of God or by love of profit? Is the Wizard of Oz a good guy or a bad one? Or back to Frankopan, is the United States of America always right, while the Middle East is wrong?
Growing up in the US, it is hard (impossible?) to not read history and current events through our lens. And it makes me wonder what lenses I am using when it comes to my research about large church ministry staff dynamics. For my personal research, Frankopan reminds me to hold my assumptions loosely and remain curious.
Throughout my researching and writing about the challenge of ministry staffs remaining healthy and productive, I intend to be open. How can I hear the other side of my own perspective? What voices may be missing from my research? Have I endeavored to listen to understand dissenters and detractors? Have I judged too quickly? Have I blamed and categorized in a hasty, tidy manner? Is it the senior leaders or the ministry staff responsibility for the pace and push? Or is it the congregation’s expectations?
Are these the right questions even?Are there other questions than that of blame? I love what David Shosanya shared at our London advance about shifting from blame to consequences. That statement shifted the room he was in when he offered it. It was disorienting.
I need to experience more disruption in my normal way of seeing and processing. What does the world look like from Tehran’s perspective? A bit extreme I admit but I am appreciating the disorientation.
Peter Frankopan, The Silk Roads: a New History of the World (New York: Vintage Books, 2017), xix.
Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Captalism, and Other Writings(New York, NY: Routledge, 2006).
7 responses to “The Discipline of Disorientation: Lessons from Wicked and Puritans”
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Great post! You remind me of something I just read about how Jesus cames to deconstruct and then reconstruct. It seems that we have developed in the Western church a faith that is all about agreeing with where you are and then “taking you further”, when Jesus seems to meet you where you are, breakdown your paradigms and then invite you to walk with him in a new way. Disorientation seems to be a key to actual growth and not cosmetic gain.
Yes Mario! I love the way you wrote this and see this play out in my own life and in my church context. Thanks for this thought and challenge.
Thank Andrea for your great post. Disorienting is exactly it, Frankopan’s book is a disorientation of what seems ‘common knowledge’ of continued Western hemisphere domination of the world. How important it is to always suspend judgement and being curious, and definitely ask questions. One of the things that I am curious about is how Frankopan misses out on the influence of Christianity in history and its role in determining the future of the World.
Good post friend. I heard a quote that essentially highlighted that the illiterate of the 21st century are no longer those who cannot read and write, but instead those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. This book (and this program) is understanding what we’ve learned, and how to unlearn and relearn. That in essence, we’re in every stage of the process in so many things, which is a good place to be.
Great post, Andrea. You are right that it is easy when hearing a story that you think you know from another’s perspective, it is easy to think that you know the answer, but often we don’t. As we mature, we learn to withhold judgment until the end, and also temper our response. As we realize we are in a global society, we have to learn to see things from another angle. Not always easy, and as you say, often disruptive.
I appreciate your appreciation for disorientation! “Banana” is such a great self-pronouncing (surprisingly, I have found it is not helpful to “call it” on someone else!) codeword construct. It is fascinating how the flavors and layers of multiple historic views can disrupt our previously held beliefs and axioms. I applaud your confessed vulnerability and look forward to hearing more of your experiences and your research.
Andrea, this is a great set of thoughts. I too remember my first time seeing Wicked and that sinking feeling that I might not have gotten the whole story watching The Wizard of Oz. Disorientation is a good descriptor of the sensation that happens, but I think what comes next is more important. Are we able to reorient ourselves with the new information we have. There are those who are given new information then discard it in favor of the orientation they have always known or most like, then there are those who are able to process the new knowledge and proceed in a new direction. The reorientation phase is critical and necessary given how much God likes to disorient us in our walk. Thanks for your post, I will be thinking about it through today.