Wednesday, July 27, 2005


How Do I Know?

Self-judgment is death, but there has to be some kind of guidance. How do I know which words to trust? I can be led to death by someone else, or I can do the job myself. What gives me such confidence in my own ability to find truth?

Experience is part of it. Being a good observer, and comparing expected results to the real results is always instructive. Theory doesn't mean much when all of your sand just went on the ground. You can also sit around and theorize the problem to death, run simulations and predict, but no one knows until you actually try something. Sooner or later the information has to be used.

I'm highly suspicious of people. Most of them don't spend much time thinking about what they're doing, and just pass on to others what they've heard somewhere else. Nothing ever gets tested. They reinvent the wheel every day. We as a culture lack the principle that events and practices build on each other. We're supposed to learn, but our culture has no respect for the time and effort that real learning requires.

So, I learned a long time ago to make my own mistakes. At least then I could work to fix the problem. Making the same mistakes as others gets me into a place where I have no idea what's going on, and no understanding that would help me fix it.

Mosaic Beverly Hills was new when I started working there. At first I did miscellaneous things, but after a few weeks my technical skills got me involved with the sound and presentation group. We'd inherited an old and cranky sound system whose many patches were coming loose, so every Sunday was an intensive troubleshooting period. At first I was completely at sea. I had no idea what connected to what, nor why. I expected someone else knew what was supposed to work, but shortly was disabused of that belief. We worked around it, and then I got fed up.

Gradually, Sunday by Sunday, I had Lu help me find out what was supposed to happen. A few times I broke things that used to work, but we patched it and ran the show. By early spring we got the system reliable: we'd hook it up and it would work. We'd sorted out things that had been miswired for a long time, found the bad connectors or cables and replaced them, and labelled them so everyone knew where to plug them in. I still remember the day it all worked the first time, and I could sit back and relax as the band practiced. We were glad.

We had to learn our way through all of this. Make the mistakes, make decisions that turned out to be wrong, gather data and make it work. This isn't an elegant process. You just have to start someplace and see what happens. You will make mistakes.

I'm good at this process. It's the way God made me. I don't know why. If I start to feel confused I know that I'm missing information, and I start trying to learn.

If I feel the project is worth it. Technical stuff is easy. You plug it in. If it works, go to the next If it doesn't, wiggle it. If that changes something, figure out what's at fault. Be wary of multiple overlapping failures, and work through it. I've never felt helpless with this kind of thing; it is susceptible to an artistically rational way of thought that suits my brain.

Other things, I just give up. If you have a ball of cats, you need to find a tail someplace to hold. Relationships are a big ball of cats and I can find no tail. Who taught me this truth? Experience. I reach in, think I've found something true, and then claws and teeth sink in. Oops. Wrong end. Enough lacerations and I just quit. Back out, close the door, lock it and go on. I don't know where the truth is.

God just doesn't understand defeat. I've had my nose rubbed in defeat for a lifetime, so I've learned which battles not to try. And now God says that relationships are just another group of Philistines, and all it takes is one Jonathan. Victory is assured.

Assured? Who are you trying to kid? I have the scars to prove just how intractable this batch of Philistine cats is. They're tougher than I am. They are incomprehensible. There is no junction point to start with, no knob to twist in order to find out if it's the left or the right channel. I can't swap a card to see if the trouble moves. I look at the whole mess beyond the door that God has unlocked and see no way through. My artistically rational process, which has worked so well in so many different places, just falls to pieces, and the pieces scurry away looking for shelter.

How do I know defeat? Experience. Repeated. How do I know God? A string of victories, little ones, making a chain that lifts me beyond what I once knew. Can I trust this to continue? There's no reason not to, but... relationships? Very sharp claws in that ball of cats. I'd rather not.

God allows little choice, because I've told him repeatedly that I want what He knows is best. He knows. I don't. The limits of my knowledge, the limit of my experience, the close boundary of the familiar. Statistics say one more defeat is guaranteed. God doesn't understand statistics.

It's fairly easy to add new information to existing, similar, information, and by comparing and contrasting and testing find out where it fits. That enlarges the system, providing more hooks for even more new information. Once you've learned some technical things, new technical things have a place to hang their hats and stick around.

Brand-new information is harder to learn. You have to build the whole system from scratch, which is why children are so busy learning things and playing .It's how they assemble their world. Adults already have a world, but sometimes it needs an addition, and this is hard. Adults are less flexible, ossifying as they age. God is the great dissolver of calcium deposits, restoring flexibility; he just doesn't recognize such a thing as a box to think outside of.

He won't waste his time teaching a pig to fly. The pig isn't made that way. He will spend a lot of time teaching me to fly, because at one time in my life I had wings. That I cut them off is my fault, but he has made it his problem. Of course I no longer have the skills to fly, if I ever did. He has to start from scratch, teaching me to recognize his truth even if it's outside what I know. Far outside.

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