Monday, January 21, 2008

Works of Intricacy


I once read a description by an ancient philosopher of the delicate balance of needs that is created in human interaction. He said that it is like a colony of porcupines living in the arctic. They need to stay huddled close together to keep warm enough to survive, but if they move too close, they wound each other with their spines. I found this idea in a book by a linguist named Deborah Tannen about conversational styles. It was being used as a depiction of the dichotomy of two conflicting but irrevocable human needs which are the need for involvement, and the need for independence. We were created to function as members of families and societies and cultures, and yet we are equally as intended by God to be individuals (this book was not written from a Christian perspective, but the work of God is apparent in any such principle). Ever since my discovery of it, I have been enthralled by observing the tension created by this conflict at work within us -because every accommodation that is made for either of these needs necessarily breaches the comfort of the other need. Dr. Tannen describes this tension to be the cause of the majority of miscommunications in the perception of what is “polite” because you may be polite to someone by showing involvement with them, or by respecting their independence. Based off of which type of politeness is expected, you may be perceived as rude. I hear this principle proving itself in ordinary stories from myself or others multiple times every single day. It is such a delicate balance and, therefore, is nearly impossible to find. The more I notice it the more I begin to remember how incredibly intricate is the work of our impossibly wondrous God. Why in heavens name would he put so much detail into the minute interchanges of words and glances which do not effect his over-all plan? I believe that creation could have got along just fine without all the details of unimportant things like this. But we were made in the image of God. The God. The I am. Could we possibly have expected our design to be simple with such a model? It would be absurd.

1 comment:

David said...

Fascinating. I love the "porcupines in an attic" metaphor.