Wednesday, August 15, 2007

hand head heart

Carey has been a building site since classes started in March. The floor above us has been gutted and refurbished. It all finishes tomorrow. I've been disrupted much less than others - partly because I've been too busy admiring the skills on display.

Start with the project manager. Every day for months there is this row of vans outside belonging to every kind of sub-contractor. How does he figure-out who needs to be on-site and at what time and in what place? The vision and the teamwork is amazing. Then there are the specialist skills of the plumbers and the electricians, the plasterers and the carpenters, the concrete-cutters and the carpet-layers and the elevator-installers... Having not grown up with tools in my hands, I've wasted a lot of time just watching skilled hands at work.

And that's just what happens once I get to work! Closer to home there is even more admiring going on. Take that extension to the Hillsborough motorway nearby! Watching 'every valley filled; every mountain brought low' to create a road with perfect flatness. WOW! And what about the way they keep the traffic flowing - as they build six overbridges - by creating these temporary roads that skirt around the edge? That is so clever! Only one bridge has been completed so far. I cannot begin to describe the excitement I feel about driving over each of the other five.

"Paul, you are a sick man and need help." Yes I know.

However the more I've reflected on this the more I realise that there is more going on than what meets the eye. While I've admired what people can do with tools and machines in their HANDS, it is not just about hands. It is also about HEADS. There are clever architects behind that building-site. There are brilliant engineers behind that motorway [I know this for a fact because when one visited I forced him into the car for a drive-by the motorway and a view from up Mt Roskill and compelled him to give me a running commentary on all that our eyes surveyed. Thanks Damian ... "and you are still a very sick man, Paul"].

Then when I took a walk around upstairs late yesterday something else dawned on me. It looks so beautiful. Surely the architects and concrete-cutters alike must walk through those rooms and feel a joy and contentment about a job well done. The finished product is a work of art. There is passion and pride and HEART going on here.

So - as I've sat with all this - I think what really inspires me is the integration of hand and head and heart so evident in this final product. The gaps between the three have become so small! And yet it is on this issue that such a melancholy about the prevailing Christian spirituality can overwhelm me. If head and heart and hand in our churches had a race, 'heart' would pip 'hand' at the finish line and 'head' would come a distant third. I fear I might spontaneously combust if I hear someone say once more that what we need today is more 'heart knowledge', not 'head knowledge'. ["Yes, Paul - then you really will be a very sick man"].

There is a better way forward. For argument's sake, take just the 'head' and the 'heart'. We tend to view these to be like two non-overlapping circles. They deal with very different realities. The feeling stuff is here and the intellectual stuff is over there - and never the twain shall meet. What about seeing them more like a single ellipse with two poles? There is still some distinction - but now there is also integration and the opportunity for the gap between the two to become small. Sometimes I find it is as if my heart is feeling deep thoughts and my head is aflame with passionate ideas. "Case closed - you really do need help, Paul!"

While I seek out that help, I am going to keep praying and working to see the people of God engaged in the mission of God looking more like ... ... upstairs.

nice chatting

Paul

6 comments:

Heather and Martin said...

If you're sick, so am I :-) I *love* factories. I worked in a toiletries factory one school holidays and was fascinated to learn how these every-day things were made. Later, as a chemistry student at varsity, I was priveleged to visit several of factories whilst researching for a book on industrial chemistry that I co-edited. The best ever bit was seeing an entire mini-van being immersed in a vat of iron-grey paint as it's undercoat was electroplated on. So cool!

Making the 'stuff' of our lives can be so creative, fine-tuned and beautiful.

As a masters student I remember studying the chemistry of how a particular enzyme worked and being caught up in wonder at the amazing beauty and fine tuning of this 'machinery' God had built.

You keep on enjoying building sites!

--Heather :-)

bigjon said...

I've always understood the head/heart thing to be the difference between a belief that i assent to and a conviction that drives my life. Holding a truth not just in an intellectual way but in a deeper life changing way. In that sense head knowledge that doesn't impact our lives is still-born, a truth that should profoundly affect us is compartmentalised away from our real life, and the possiblities the gospel reveals in us are never realised.

Paul said...

oops - I think I've been guilty of being polite and waiting for others to go first :)

Ah, Heather your experience of Chemistry at Uni was more animated and affective than mine! That is good for me to read ...

I think the 'compartmentalising' is the great danger. As I was always taught "if Jesus is not Lord of all, he isn't Lord at all". I cannot see how we can lay our lives before God and think that he sees compartments in us ... and yes, that starts with this compartmentalised head:heart nonsense to which so many fall victim. Following Jesus involves putting them in the one compartment and helping them sit close to each other.

Scott said...

After reading part of Edward's 'Religious Affections' (it was too long!) I can never get away from the description of 'head' stuff being the fuel for the 'heart' stuff. Right affections arise in response to deep beliefs and convictions. This motivates 'hand' actions, worked out in the life. It's been helpful for me anyway.

Paul said...

That paragraph of yours Scott is exactly how I find it to be in my own experience.

Jonathan Edwards stands in the Puritan tradition and they had a statement along the lines of "all grace enters through the understanding" ... I used to use this statement as a discussion-provoker in Preaching classes (I am not convinced it is completely correct) but over the years I got fewer and fewer 'takers' who agreed with the statement that no discussion was provoked and I had to drop it!

One of the tell-tale signs of this area is the currency of today's conversation ... listen to how often people say "I feel" instead of "I think". [A related one of interest to me is how often people speak about how they went to "see" a speaker, rather than to "hear" a speaker]

Keep living that elliptical life, Scott

Paul said...

I was talking to someone about this and they suggested that a "figure eight" is a more dynamic image than an ellipse. I tend to agree.