Wittgenstein..a reflection

From The Essence of Wisdom, page 5

Ludwig Wittgenstein: “The truth can be spoken only by someone who already lives inside it; not by someone who still lives in untruth and only sometimes reaches out from untruth toward it.”

I was watching one of the Dish channels the other night- one of the channels “on beyond zero” where the Good Samaritan Network and Brigham Young University exist in perpetual broadcast limbo. There is a teacher training station among that group that features lectures which demonstrate to high school teachers how to teach algebra or how to maintain discipline in the lunchroom, etc. And among the “etceteras” is the occasional motivational speaker.

Why? I don’t know. I understand the real estate and insurance industry’s need to keep their entry level personnel hyped up on goal-setting and being positive about day after day of fruitless cold calls; and I know there is a strange stroking of one’s own ego involved in buying a $99 ticket to hear Anthony Robbins or Donald Trump treat a whole theater full of mid-level managers as confidants on the way to the kind of success they have “enjoyed.” But motivational rah-rah-blah-blah-blah for high school teachers?

The particular motivational speaker used by the group that runs this channel, and it is always the same guy, brings immediately to my mind the character made famous by the late (and truly great) Chris Farley. He played the motivational expert on “Saturday Night Live”, hired by parents for their lackadaisical teenaged children, and who “lived in a van, down by the river.” Same ill-fitting suit, same pseudo-expertise, same tired hustle. Only in America is there enough call for motivational hypists that they have coagulated into a group that can so easily be stereotyped.

The teacher channel guy is no exception. He is learnedly confidant, practiced at exuding expertise, and is able to mimic the nuanced professionalism of the first level motivational speakers, like Robbins or Wayne Dyer. And he is full of stories. He is full of stories about human transformation of which he was a part, and which he was sensitive enough and experienced enough to recognize and stimulate in those less-than-full achievers who had been fortunate enough to come near him. And he is full of baloney (or bologna, for those of higher epicurean standards).

I hear preachers do this, too, and too often. They make up stories to fit the occasion. There are even (trade secret coming!) books- many of them- full of these stories, grouped under topical headings: evangelism, healing, salvation. Or, they are published to correspond with lectionary topics of the week. It’s Advent again? Here, on page 188 of Inspiring Stories, is the beautiful story of a young mother who had nothing to give her little boy for Christmas. So, together, they made Christmas cards for shut-ins and delivered them on Christmas Eve. It was the greatest gift she could have given the boy and he remembered it the rest of his life.

I’m not kidding. And you know I’m not kidding. You’ve heard that kind of blather, too, and you should no longer feel embarrassed for thinking that’s what it is because, 99% of the time, that’s exactly what it is. I don’t know why preachers, teachers, or motivational speakers would ever need to reach into a book for fictional reinforcements for their stories. If they are teaching or preaching or practicing Truth, then even the most mundane, ordinary, and common elements of their environments will reinforce those that Truth! If they have kept their eyes and hearts even half open during a few years of their lives, they will have seen the transformative nature of each day, each new birth, each new sunrise.

Here, try this, our lesson for the day:

Matthew 7: 7-8: Ask and it shall be given you, seek and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

It was 4 a.m. and Leona arrived home from her job at the night-shift in the emergency room exhausted and ready to give up. She could feel her little boy, just six weeks from being born, stirring inside of her as she plopped down on the couch. She stared at the wall, wondering if she could it make in this new world of being a mother, alone. Her husband, Diego, had been six months already in Iraq, and she hated that he would miss their son’s birth. She cried out, “Please, God..help me,” and began to cry.

Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. And yada, yada, yada, you know the rest of the story. If you don’t, just make up a blazing finish to the story because that’s exactly how it began. You’ve heard the story, or a variation of it, a hundred times before, and the tragedy of stories that are made up is that they usually have never happened to us in that same way. We can’t relate. So we get frustrated that our own prayers aren’t heard as quickly as Leona’s, or that our own sense of discomfort seems never to be alleviated. My own stories never have the neat beginnings and endings that Pastor Bob’s do; there must be something wrong with me!

Now, try this:

Matthew 7: 7-8: Ask and it shall be given you, seek and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

The backyard is a mess. The dogs have chewed up a Reader’s Digest and the slats in the fence still need replacing. But the pecan tree is filled with doves this morning, listen. The same sunlight that is falling on the neighbor’s landscaped lawn and on the cloud forests of Ecuador is casting light across my back porch, into the kitchen window, and onto my face, see? The clouds- last week’s rain showers- are rising in white, billowy, perfection and I’ve seen them a thousand times before but this is the first time, ever, that I’ve seen these clouds, this day, and everything in the world is new and I am new and now I am ready to breathe again, begin again, and live another of the gifted days I been given.

That sounds exactly like my backyard. But it also is exactly like the sun on my face, the birds in the trees, and the clouds rising far, but near, above me. I can derive strength, real strength, God’s breath-blown strength from that which is true. And I can remind myself of it ten times today, or a thousand times today if I need to, simply by looking, and listening, again.

Truth is everywhere. It is pushing through, upward and outward all the time, in as many places as we take time to see it. It doesn’t cost $99 for a ticket to see, and you don’t have to go to an auditorium and sit with a thousand people who are starving for it, and you don’t have to have it presented to you in new wrapping paper and skillfully tied ribbons.

Watch for those birds, and listen to those birds. Listen to the rain today, if it rains, or stop and be amazed beyond your ability to put into words- don’t even try!- the swirl of a sunflower’s petals and the spiral of seeds within its center. Or look at the grass pushing its way through the cracks in ½ inch thick concrete. That’s Truth. And I’m betting that it’s a Truth you can own that Donald Trump will never own. And I will not listen to you try to tell me that the Donald is richer than you are.

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