“Then he told them many things in parables…” – Matthew 13:3a
“When there’s an authentic mystery, as opposed to just a question being asked, that’s what makes you lean forward.” – J.J. Abrams
Part 2 – The Truth Hurts
Oddly, the kinds of truths which can change lives can be astoundingly hard to hear. You might think (possibly even hope) those truths would be some of the easiest things to hear, but as the saying goes, the truth hurts. Maybe not so much the truth itself as much as the way the reality behind the truth can make us feel like we have been flayed open and put on display for the world to see. Possibly it hurts because we really do want to be the best “us” we can be and the truth frequently points to the reality of how frighteningly short we can fall at times.
No matter the reason, the truth really can hurt and those who want to effect change for the better need to remember as much. Surgeons don’t just start cutting on folks without anesthesia because they discover the person needs an emergency appendectomy, and if they do it’s usually in a movie of the week not real life– and if it is in real life, it usually becomes a move of the week. However, most of the time in real life there’s a lot that happens before the incision, things that make the cut less frightening and less painful. The point is, you need to administer some form of anesthesia, even if it is just localized, before you go doing things that might hurt – even if you know the outcome is for the better.
That is where metaphor comes in. If being prophetic means speaking the truth, and if the truth can sometimes hurt, we need to learn to make it less painful. Please note, I’m not saying make it more pliable or more placid, because at that point it fails to be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and wouldn’t have hurt anyway, so why bother packaging it up in metaphor in the first place?
Star Trek, like so many things in the world of geek entertainment, spoke difficult truths about society and then imagined a better way for the world. While those kinds of truths can cut like a knife, it’s amazing how much easier they are to handle when they are being told in a safe fantasy land, a place that didn’t really exist. For me it meant my modern day reality felt much less confronted. I was able to accept it for what it was without feeling insulted or defensive about it.
It is a reality many science fiction and fantasy writers have known for some time now. Writers from C.S. Lewis to Lewis Carroll all understood, if you want to talk about things that could make people uncomfortable, things that might make them want to step back and distance themselves, do it using metaphor and storytelling. Make it a mystery of sorts – it even goes for what you are actually talking about. Like the quote from J.J. Abram at the top of the page says, “When there’s an authentic mystery, as opposed to just a question being asked, that’s what makes you lean forward.” Just like that, in using metaphor, we go from from people wanting to step back from hearing a truth to people wanting to lean in.
In a smaller way that is what this small blog series is trying to do. Talking about how Christians aren’t doing the things they are supposed to be doing is not something that goes over very well with most of us. As a matter of fact, not doing what God wants us to do sounds oh-so-much like sin and we do not like talking about it. Us? Sin? Start talking about us sinning and you are likely to be met with a dismissive, “Good day, sir. I said, ‘Good day!’” So, instead, let’s talk about geeks. “Fantastic!” Just like that, we went from people wanting to step back to people wanting to lean in.