Who Will Save the City (Part 3)

For posts regarding Teresa of Avila

Who Will Save the City
Part 1
Part 2

Part 3
If one is sick of the sickness, then one is not sick.
The wise are not sick, because they are sick of sickness.1

The prophet drove up the hill to the restaurant on east end of town to meet the “Wise Woman” for lunch. The wise woman got out of the car. Her granddaughter guided her, but she needed no help. The prophet often wondered if it would be the wise woman who would save the city.

They began their lunch. The wise woman said, “‘So you’re sick of the sickness’? Do you know what it means to be ‘sick of the sickness’?” The prophet said, “I think so. Alongside those words in the Tao Te Ching it also says”,

Knowing ignorance is strength.
Ignoring knowledge is sickness.
2

The prophet said, “It seems to me that the sickness is a lack of knowledge. But the lack of knowledge stems from not understanding our own ignorance. We become more knowledgeable by understanding our ignorance and limitations.” The wise woman affirmed that seemed to be a reasonable interpretation.

Then, Wendell Berry’s doppelgänger walked into the restaurant and over to table and handed the wise woman a book (written by the real Wendell Berry) called What Are People FOR? Wendell Berry’s doppelgänger said, “Read page five.” He then went to the counter and ordered lunch.

“What would you like today?”
“I’ll take two tacos and a Coke.”
“Would you like your Coke in the can?”
“No – I’ll just drink it at the table.”

(Apparently Wendell Berry’s doppelgänger also knew if you told this joke, you would get a free taco. The owner gives away approximately 45 tacos a week. Apparently, this was a favorite joke of his father and he does it to honor him. He will occasionally give a free taco for other corny jokes.)

The wise woman opened up the book to page five and began to read:

Damage
I have a steep wooded hillside that I wanted to be able to pasture occasionally, but had no permanent water supply.

About halfway to the top of the slope there is a narrow bench, on which I thought I could make a small pond. I hired a man with a bulldozer to dig one. He cleared the trees and then formed the pond, cutting into the hill on the upper side, piling the loosed dirt in a curving earthwork on the lower.

The pond appeared to be a success. Before the bulldozer quit work, water had already begun to seep in. Soon there was enough to support a few head of stock. To heal the exposed ground, I fertilized and sowed it with grass and clover.

We had an extremely wet fall and winter, with the usual freezing and thawing. The ground grew heavy with water, and soft. The earthwork slumped; a large slice of the woods floor on the upper side slipped down into the pond.

The trouble was the familiar one: too much power, too little knowledge. The fault was mine.

I was careful to get expert advice. But this only exemplifies what I already knew. No expert knows everything about every place. If one’s knowledge of one’s whereabouts is insufficient, if one’s judgement is unsound, then expert advice is of little use. 3

Wendell Berry’s doppelgänger stopped backed to the table and picked up his book. He began to walk out and then turned and asked if either of them had any oatmeal raisin cookies. They both shook their heads “no”, and then he left.

The wise woman returned to her thoughts about the Wendell Berry reading. She said the problem with anyone trying “save the city” is that very few, if anyone, knows how to do it, but a lot of people think they know how. In fact, most solutions are worse than the original problem. We look for someone to fix things and expect them to have grand plans. Yet, these plans usually come from someone that doesn’t understand their own limited knowledge or the place or situation they’re trying to fix. They have a simple grid they apply to everything. When things don’t go well, they convince others they’re the only one that can fix the problems they created in the first place and somehow gain more power.

“So there’s nothing we can do?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“But your opposed to a big vision or progress?”
“No. I’m opposed to arrogance, lack of knowledge, lack of judgment, disregard of context, lack of history, and an unwillingness to recalibrate plans based on new information. And, by the way, I’m also opposed to a lack of progress.”

The wise woman’s granddaughter returned and the wise woman left.

The prophet stayed at the restaurant. He reflected on the conversation with the wise woman. He looked down Main Street and noticed the reconstruction of the steeple. His mind began to wander and he thought about things like architectural integrity verses a more utilitarian approach. His mind drifted to the architecture of the Unitarian Church in Oak Park4. He began to notice the music coming from the kitchen of the restaurant:

Something filled up
My heart with nothing
Someone told me not to cry

Now that I’m older
My heart’s colder
And I can see that it’s a lie . . .

We’re just a million little gods causin’ rain storms,
Turning every good thing to rust
I guess we just have to adjust

With my lighting bolts a glowin’
I can see where I am goin’.
5

The prophet was surprised at how much the conversation with the wise woman, a couple fortuitous events, and some reflection cleared his thinking. He realized how much he had conformed his life to the expectations of others (or, at least, what he believed to be their expectations). He started remembering who he really was, who he really is, and who he wanted to be. He no longer felt the need to save the city (or find someone to save the city). His greatest contribution to the city would be to become himself once again.
.

1 Tao Te Ching. Lao-tsu. Gia-fu Feng. Jane English. Vintage Books. 1972, 2002
2 Ibid
3 What Are People FOR? Wendell Berry. North Point Press. 1990.
4 Unitarian Church in Oak Park, IL. Frank Lloyd Wright – Architect.
5 Album: Arcade Fire: Funeral: Wake-Up. 2004. Lyrics: Win Butler and Regine Chassagne.


Jesus Follower, Blogger, Public Speaker. Teresaofavilaturns500.wordpress.com

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