Let’s Keep Talking!


On the Front Porch, we believe it takes time to understand one another. We human beings are not easy to understand!

In a tribute to the retiring Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, we introduce his insight into the challenge of  understanding by exploring the ideas in his essay, Interiority and Epiphany: a reading in New Testament Ethics (1997).

It’s tempting to think there is an ideal listener out there who really gets “who we are.” Yet in the effort to communicate our “true selves” to another—to the less perfect listeners with whom we are actually engaged—we are easily frustrated by how obscure others seem to be. We become obscure to ourselves.

In any given community,  efforts to communicate are hampered by the fact that each of us see and interpret things differently. And, since we assume some things are truer than other things, it’s easy to project our notions of normalcy onto others. We imagine that our external or false selves get in the way of our authentic, inner selves…and that if only we could shed the husks, we could get at the kernels and gain more immediate understanding.

Unfortunately, this modern idea that we have a core self that needs to be excavated and communicated to other true selves actually undermines our ability to dialogue and keeps us disconnected. If in fact there is no pre-given identity (the so-called true self), then the self is not a substance in and of itself but an integrity that one must struggle to bring into existence over time. Our interiority, then, is a construct that only emerges through the labor of ongoing exchange in dialogue.

Simply put, our reasoning and motivations are not immediately transparent to others; we need one another to help us clarify and articulate who we are. We are discovered in the world of exchange, where conversation is open-ended and unscripted. This takes time. It takes partnering.

We never cease to be vulnerable to how others perceive and define us. We have to revise continually what we say whenever there is a breakdown in the exchange.  Such a breakdown forces us to ask, “What did I mean? What do you mean?” Sadly, when we stop such revision, we’ve closed off the other, or defined the other in terms of our projections, and understanding ceases. Building the community for which we hunger requires learning to talk and insists we keep talking!

Enjoyed our Fall Gatherings at the Victory Grill!


Sunday Salon at the Victory Grill

We’ve had a great time hanging out at the Victory Grill with you.  Clifford Gillard and his crew have made us feel at home. We have had some great acts on our Sunday Stage. And some amazing conversations at our Salon. We’ve reached the end of our fall schedule at the Victory Grill.

But, fear not! Enjoy your holidays and then join us again in 2013. For starters, we’ll be hosting an event at All Saints’Episcopal Church on Epiphany–January 6, at 5 p.m. There’ll be Choral Evensong followed by a special evening of music, drama and art–and great refreshment.  It will be a mystical, artful evening.

On Saturday, January 26th, clear your calendar, and come on back to the Victory Grill for our Front Porch Festival. We’ll have an afternoon and evening festival of music to benefit our partners–John Pointer and Patronism.com plus The Victory Grill and Capitol View Arts. Most of the folks we’ve hosted on the Sunday Stage will be back–John Pointer with a few Patronism artists, Darius Jackson, Erin Ivey, Paul Finley, Serafia Jane, and  more.   On that day, at our Festival, we’ll tell you what’s next on the Front Porch.

The Gift of Uncertainty


There is an enormous difference between certainty and conviction. We all have convictions, deeply held ideals, and values that we believe to be true and important.

Yet no matter how strongly we may believe something to be true, there is always the possibility that we might be mistaken, that we do not see the whole picture, that we do not have access to all the facts, and that, if we did, we might yet change our mind.

The willingness to acknowledge that our beliefs and convictions are always provisional and consequently subject to change is a hallmark of human maturity, not weak-mindedness.

When what we hold precious is challenged, we instinctively defend it because we are invested in our hard-earned convictions. But this is precisely when mindfulness is called for, lest our convictions harden into certainty. When they do, we close off the possibility of genuine dialogue with others, and our relationships stop growing and changing.

It is by encountering the beliefs and convictions of others in a spirit of mutual openness and respectful engagement that our beliefs and convictions are enriched, enhanced, and expanded.

Authentic and transformative dialogue, then, requires a healthy measure of uncertainty. It requires us to admit that our vision is limited, that we do not have all the answers, that we are human. It requires humility. And, in the words of the French philosopher Simone Weil, “We do not have to acquire humility. There is humility in us—only we humiliate ourselves before the false god of certainty.”

Certainty is easy. Uncertainty, on the other hand, is hard. Yet dialogue demands uncertainty, and that is no small thing. We have had too much of monologues.

We must learn to speak with rather than at one another. We must learn to share our best ideas, our highest hopes, and our deepest convictions with those who are different from us – and to receive theirs in return. This kind of gift-giving, rooted in uncertainty, creates dialogical friendships and the confidence that comes through partnering.