I spend a lot of my time around preachers and teachers, people entering the fray week after week offering sermons and talks to congregants and parishioners, members of the public, saints and sinners, together seeking to make sense of it all.
Claims are made, arguments are formed, stories told, illustrations tendered, questions raised, answers given, each in search of the truth about existence, meaning, life, and everything.
Some of these talks are good. Too many are weak. But the effort is made.
And it should be made, not only because the preacher or teacher may have something to say. People have a longing to hear, reason, wrestle, question, think, and apply what makes sense. We’re all seeking wisdom. Step in the box. Learn to discern between a ball and a strike. Learn how to pick out a pitch worth the chance. Learn which pitches to let whiz past. When a good pitch presents itself, take a swing.
You might hit a slow dribbler to first. You might fly out to the catcher. You could get fooled on the curve and hit a chopper to short. You could even take a mighty swing and, whoosh, miss.
Even a failed attempt can lead to gain, if you learn from the experience. That first missed swing has a name. We call it “strike one.” Step back in. Take another swing.
If you stand in there, keep your eye on the ball, time it right, and everything comes together at just the right moment, a liner might find a gap between the chalk populated only by green grass. If it’s rolling, you’re running. Or, if you connect on the sweet spot, crack, that ball might carry over the wall. Round the bases. Touch’em all.
Fear of criticism, social media backlash, the appearance of looking foolish, or the possibility an argument will fall flat keeps too many from taking the bat off their shoulder or stepping into the box at all. Don’t quiver and qualify and then go quiet. Instead, form convictions and make claims. Reason calmly. Argue boldly.
We’re here to take swings. We’re here to search for meaning, divine right from wrong, distinguish good from evil, develop a moral vision, answer ultimate questions, and build a life based on conviction. That’s what it means to be human. Once we arrive upon solid answers, we offer them up. They’ve helped us. They might help someone else. Pass wisdom along. Wisdom is the kind of thing that increases in value the more it is shared.
If we encounter others on an identical quest, we may help one another. Dialogue can sharpen arguments, solidifying the footing. Better to know you stand on a shoddy foundation before a crisis comes. Socrates exposed the weaknesses in arguments, and for that, he is remembered as one of the greatest and wisest philosophers who walked the earth. When what’s underfoot is discovered to be sandy or shaky, you can continue the search for bedrock elsewhere.
It’s tough to learn how to take a good swing if you have never taken the risk of committing a few bad ones. Get in the box. When a good pitch presents itself, turn it around with a good swing. Encourage others to do the same.