Barking Into The Crowd

Barking Into The Crowd

I was on the board of a venerable organization as we discussed a potentially unpopular change. The CEO was nervous. One of the board members said, “The dogs bark, the caravan moves on.” I had never heard the phrase. I imagined a military caravan traveling through town, dogs barking everywhere because, well, that’s what dogs do.

My neighbor has a border collie, Lucky. Without a flock to herd he eagerly awaits every opportunity to retrieve anything – a tennis ball, a rotten apple, smelly socks. Lucky barks at everything that moves on our quiet street. Until I got to know him I found his barking annoying. Now that we are on speaking terms I realize Lucky’s just calling out to everyone he sees, “Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!”

I worked in the church for over 40 years. I preached in churches of 15 and churches of 15,000. I know the American church pretty well. Some attend church because they are afraid – afraid of hell – afraid of life maybe. Some come for the community. Others value the worship. Some are what my friend Brian calls “learners.” They see life as a journey, not a destination. They are spiritual seekers who do not expect incontrovertible answers. Others are “landers.” They want every “i” dotted and every “t” crossed. The two groups do not always get along.

I have always been a learner, driven to ask the questions that have no answers. I have not always found favor with landers. I have too many doubts, read too many books. I’ve always tried to speak honestly. Mark Nepo says, “Are we speaking honestly or just barking into the crowd of everything we are afraid of?” It is an important question. Neither learners nor landers are immune to barking into the crowd.

I’m discovering most learners are open to hearing about my experience as a transgender woman. Most landers are more resistant. They have already landed on that subject and found it unacceptable. The Southern Baptists even condemned it on a voice vote – a voice vote! They didn’t even consider it worthy of a tally. The landers took over the Southern Baptist Convention quite a while ago. They purged their seminaries and moved hardcore landers into positions of power. Now that I’m standing outside that world, it all looks like a tempest in a teapot.

I now find myself among a lot of active reformers who live on the liberal side of the street. They have learners and landers too.  Some of them bark into the crowd. I have to be honest though. I find a lot more learners on the liberal side of the street than I found on the conservative side of the street. They speak honestly. They know what they know and what they don’t know and the difference between the two. And yes, I feel more at home among them. Most have no idea what it means to be transgender, but it does not frighten them. They feel no need to bark from a distance, via blogs and sermons and chat rooms. They invite me into their homes and ask about my journey. They puzzle with me over the things none of us understand about what causes someone to be trans. They have taken the approach, “Love first, and the understanding will follow.” Not many of them are Southern Baptists.

I suppose a society needs both groups, the landers upholding cultural norms while the learners keep it all moving forward. I don’t sound very convincing, do I? You’re right, I’m not feeling all that charitable toward landers these days. I’ll leave you to ponder the reason.

And so it goes.

Such Different Souls

Such Different Souls

I have one granddaughter who is an old soul.  We knew before she was six months of age.  She looked me square in the eye with this penetrating gaze as if to say, “If you only knew.”  It reminded me of the commercial in which the animated baby sings, “Nobody knows the trouble I seen.”

 She has a fraternal twin sister who is definitely not an old soul.  This is clearly her first time on the planet and she is quite convinced it exists only for her pleasure.  When the planet does not behave as she demands, she screams for it to fall into submission.  It hasn’t worked yet, but that does not stop her from trying.  Her sister just stares at her, as if to say, “If you only knew.”

This Little Old Soul seems extraordinarily aware of things I just figured out last Thursday.  She knows it is not about her.  She knows you must be cautious and careful because everyone has an agenda.  She knows to study a person carefully before engaging in any meaningful way.  Her fixed stare is judge and jury, and it is infallible.  I take her with me when choosing a car mechanic, a financial advisor, or someone to cut my hair.  “This’ll look great on you!” the stylist says with a buoyant flair.  Little Old Soul shoots a glance, “She got her beauty license over the Internet – run, run for the hills.”  Her sister would watch them color my hair purple, then laugh hysterically.  Like I said, she’s new to the planet.

Little Old Soul sat at my desk in the study and gave me the evil eye when I walked in to dust the bookshelf.  She was “writing” on my desk calendar – Sanskrit, or some ancient language acquainted with Sufi wisdom.  When the month was over I kept the page.  Archeologists will be interested. On the other hand her sister is fixated with lollipops – green lollipops.  She holds a fistful (hey, what are grandparents for?) with this toothy grin, “I am the queen, and my subjects do as I say!”  Poor thing does not have a clue. Two little munchkins, already with different stories to tell.  Hairs numbered like the sands of the sea, old soul and new, precious beyond measure.