Tuesday, October 01, 2013
change as the aggregation of small moments
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about small moments. What are the quiet places, the moments in conversation, the habits, by which I might be part of enacting change and being part of transformation? I work for an organisation in decline, one that has been in decline for decades (over a hundred years, back to the start of the twentieth century according to one researcher). In decline, certain surface habits can emerge, certain ways of being, certain self-perceptions and accepting norms and acceptance of the status quo.
The organisation I work for is itself part of a larger story, a faith that is in the West eroding away. This produces pressures and realities. Again, it suggest a set of habits, held to be determinative.
It is tempting in such times to look for the bold gesture and the silver bullet, the only sweeping solution that will herald a new era. I see this embodied in the call for certain types of leaders, or the endless supply of conferences. I see this is the rush toward action. I see this in myself. I see it in others.
So a quiet encouragement today from an unlikely source, Douglas Coupland’s Life After God.
“And if we were to collect these small moments in a notebook and save them over a period of months we would see certain trends emerge from our collection—certain voices would emerge that have been trying to speak through us. We would realize that we have been having another life altogether; one we didn’t even know was going on inside us. And maybe this other life is more important than the one we think of as being real—this clunky day-to-day world of furniture and noise and metal. So just maybe it is these small silent moments which are the true story-making events of our lives.” Life After God
Key words that I ponder – collect, small, inside, silent, story-making. It has echoes of the work of Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, his call to let the true story inside each of us be heard. A story repressed by ourselves, by our families of origin, by our society. Yet inside us, it calls, offering us, if we will listen, our true vocation.
A call to reject the grand gesture and instead look for small moments, the repeated habits, the attitudes. To see in these the enormous potential for change, by the simple act of listening, journalling even, and over time, letting the trends surface, and in them weaving a story. Not a surface story of first appearances, but a true, deep story.
That is my task today – to continue to listen, to collect, to discern – another story.