Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Sideswiped by a trick question

Some days I do guided tours of the ecumenical centre for groups of visitors - particularly if they are French or German speaking. It's fun and the building has fabulous and powerful stories to tell - a beautiful chapel, a large piece of the Berlin wall in the garden, an enormous wall tapestry from Aubusson and much much more. I love showing people around and answering questions.
Well I do normally.
Today I stood in for a colleague to talk more in depth about ecumenism with a group and suddenly found myself fielding a question in German that I was not at all prepared for. Predictably my brain turned to mush.
The question went something like this - "Could you try to tell us what it is you're trying to achieve with your career and work here."
In the end after trying for the jokey response "heaven of course" I'm actually rather pleased they made me think about this. I realised that I do believe in "Unity in Diversity" even if ecumenism is not flavour of the month at the moment. Unity in diversity is a sort of red thread which helps me make sense of life and the world (well a bit anyway). For me it's about a faith that is non-monolithic, continually prepared to learn from others and be humble enough to be challenged by and even integrate ideas and realities beyond itself. The world is not just the way I see it but the way others see it.
Somewhere along the line of my rather tortured response this afternoon I realised that unity in diversity helps me cope with and understand the complexities of life and the world.
Let's just say that while I was speaking I perceivied that it made sense to me somehow - that was probably the moment my brain turned from mush and started thinking in French while my lips still continued speaking German. A moment of pure incoherent coherence.