The most rewarding thing about writing these opinion columns is the reverse-opinion feedback that keeps appearing daily in the online edition of the paper, as well as the letters to the editor. Readers have their own opinions about politics, religion and life, and their opinions are absolutely right.
When I criticized Paul’s denigration of women in 1 Corinthians 14:34, I was absolutely wrong. No, not just wrong, I was “pathetic,” “an insult to every Christian,” “desperately needing the prayers of a men’s prayer group,” and “a consultant who fleeces his medical clients.” (I don’t know how this last comment made me wrong, but a doctor said it -- so he must be right.)
Several books have been written with the title: “I am right; you are wrong,” but the one I like the most was written 25 years ago by Edward de Bono, who is both an M.D. and a Ph.D., but describes himself as a “Thinker.” He outlines the difference between “Rock” thinking and “Water” thinking.
Rock thinking is the old, traditional way of thinking: permanent and unchanging. Anyone who has studied Aristotelian/Thomistic philosophy has met the Rock. Scientists use Rock thinking when they analyze a problem to find the root cause. We say a rock “is,” and we have a sense of its absolute firmness. My religious critics are rock-solid in their conviction that I am wrong. They are absolutely right, and I am absolutely wrong. They have the truth, and I have falsity. There is no room for discussion.
Water thinking is fluid and flexible. Artists and poets use Water thinking to design their work. It is just as valid as Rock thinking, but it flows and takes on the shape of the vessel in which it is placed. If you add one rock to another, you get two rocks. But if you add water to water, you don’t get two waters. You get poetry.
In poetry and in Biblical writing, layers of words, images, metaphors and myths are added one on top of the other, and it all builds up to one holistic perception. I know that many of my Water-thinking readers disagree with my opinions, but they realize that opinions, and those who hold them, are fluid and changeable. They feel there’s plenty of room for discussion.
America uses Rock thinking in our legal system. A person is either guilty or innocent. If guilty, there is sure to be punishment. Japan uses Water thinking. Half of the arrested criminals are released by the prosecutor if they apologize and seem intent on changing their lives. I’m not saying we should change our legal system to Japan’s way of thinking. Perhaps because Japan’s crime rate is much lower than ours, the Japanese can afford to think that way. As my Water-thinking friends always put it: “I’m just saying.”
I realize now that I was a Water thinker back in the 1960s when I was teaching sacred Scripture to my post-graduate students. One of my best and brightest, Mike Shea, became a Catholic missionary priest in northern Thailand where he pays no attention to political restrictions or Catholic laws in his passion to save abandoned babies with AIDS. He has more than 250 of them in his orphanage, and he could never do this work if he used Rock thinking. His thinking flows like a river over and under the many obstructions put before him.
One of the warmest examples of Water thinking came my way last week when I was invited to teach the “Seekers Sunday School Class” at First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon. They are allowing me to share with them the unpublished copy of my new book: “Oh My God,” and they will critique it for me prior to its publication by the St. Johann’s Press in New Jersey. Not only that, but the whole church has welcomed this heretic with open arms. Kinda reminds me of Jesus with his prostitutes and tax collectors.
I know my critics will throw rocks at my water. I expect that. But I have this warm and wonderful feeling that their rocks will sink to the bottom, and my river will just “keep on keepin’ on.”
Dr. Bill Cummings is the CEO of Cummings Consolidated Corp. and Cummings Management Consultants. His website is www.billcummings.org.