Will You Find The Onramp?

A friend of mine swears that he once got so lost on back roads that his GPS actually announced, “You have now arrived beyond all knowledge.”

I often think of that as I see the rapid spread of serious crises and the parallel collapse of human ability to even understand them. Most of the “smartest guys in the room” seem stupid and powerless. Maybe we really have arrived at a place that is beyond all knowledge.

If so, wouldn’t such a moment call for humility? I mean, think about it. If great calamities surround us and we do not know what to do, shouldn’t we look up? After all, true wisdom comes down. Why not admit that we need that wisdom? Why pretend to be clever and powerful? Wouldn’t it be better to concede that we’re exhausted and empty?

Can we at least get still and quiet? So far, that pervasive hum of human voices – talk radio, broadcast news, blogs, Facebook, the Internet, award ceremonies, even bumper stickers – has only produced harshness and division, but not one flicker of hope or insight. Yet, it seems that most people are, weirdly, charging ahead in loud and strident arrogance.

Let’s face it; “the issues” are not the issues. Living in an adversarial culture or under Trump’s administration or with illness or facing any other condition is like living in the Sahara desert or Antarctica – you acclimate, engage, collaborate, and live a full-bore, straight-ahead life of joy and gratitude. A hostile terrain does not justify a hostile heart.

Humility is always appropriate.

An Era of Wicked Problems

At some point in our recent history, America (and much of the world) crossed a border separating a safe and known territory from an unmapped and dangerous one. Whereas we once had a deep and sufficient base of knowledge for living in the old country, we are now “beyond knowledge.”

Our new landscape features a major shift in the very nature and shape of problems. In his book, “Change Your Space, Change Your Culture,” Rex Miller wrote:

“‘Wicked problems’ are, by definition, social or cultural issues that are difficult or impossible to resolve because of incomplete, contradictory, or changing requirements…They are complex, vague, vexing, and shifting; we are never sure when, how, or if we have solved them.

“…we have left the age of ‘solving problems.’ Today, problems must be navigated. To ‘solve’ a problem means that you can walk away from it. To navigate a problem or dilemma means that we must find a path between competing pressures.” [1]

         That could be why so many are caught in hyperventilating and convulsive reaction. Clearly, old concepts and approaches are just not working.

The Only Path To The Future

Perhaps our times and places require new eyes for, and new responses to, “wicked problems.”

The Bible reminds us that “the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.” (James 3:17, NKJV)

Since the “wisdom” that comes “from around these parts” always leads to disappointment, this would seem like a good time to lift our eyes. I know this is counterintuitive for many, but what if the onramp to the future is “controlled access,” and can only be found by the pure, the peaceable, the broken, the quiet, the gentle, the helpless, and the humble?

If so, will it ever permit you and me to find it? That may be the biggest question any of us will ever face.

[1] Rex Miller, Change Your Space, Change Your Culture. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2014. P. 31

6 thoughts on “Will You Find The Onramp?”

  1. Glen Roachelle

    Ed, this is just so very fine! I really appreciate it. The quote by Rex Miller is just jolting to the mind. The fact that we have moved from the age of solving problems to just navigating problems between competing pressures, is troubling. If this is so, indeed we have been measured by our problems and we are now very small. We are weighed in the balances and have not measured up.

    If we no longer measure up, then we must look up. One great statement you wrote is: “A hostile terrain does not justify a hostile heart.” That is a critical caution sign on this road we all travel together.

    If I examine your quote carefully, it seems to me that perhaps we should be willing to change our hearts, to insure we find the right path to peace. May God help us to recalibrate our compasses. Thanks again for this high caffeine essay.

  2. Ed, I appreciated the entire article and particularly these words:

    “A hostile terrain does not justify a hostile heart.”

    We do need to humble ourselves and understand that we are not able to solve every problem but we are able to guard our hearts. Thank you for sharing.

  3. In the Ash Wednesday service we attended last evening, we sang an old song from my childhood that has been resonating in my mind ever since. It seems apropos for your comments, Ed. “It’s me, it’s me, O Lord, standin’ in the need of prayer … not my brother, not my sister, it’s me O Lord, standin’ in the need of prayer.” Perhaps it’s time to turn inward to find both the problem and the solution. “It’s me, O Lord, and I’m standin’ in the need of prayer.”

  4. Thanks again Ed.

    You expressed it so well, this business of dealing with all of the “allness” of the stuff I we face when you quoted Miller about navigating rather than solving problems. The problems congregated before us are bigger than us, driving us to the One who holds the answer that we can have only in part, in the now.

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