Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Thoughts of Others

My thoughts are not my own.  They are born out of all that I have experienced, seen and felt through the years.  They are born out of what others have shared of their experiences and what they have seen and felt.  I wonder this morning if I have ever had an original thought of my own.  My thinking is colored by my parents, my upbringing, my environment, my teachers, and the books I have read.  All our thinking is plagiarized to some degree.   I think it important for all of us to acknowledge this reality and give credit where credit is due, rather than pretending that we are the first to ever discover this truth or that truth. Such acknowledgement saves us from thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought to think.

Arthur Gossip, a much-revered Scottish Protestant minister, tells of how he came in the late afternoon of an exhausting day visiting his parishioners and at four o’clock stood at the foot of a five-story tenement building where one of his parishioners lived on the top floor.  He said that he was feeling exhausted and said to himself, “I’ll go home now, and come back tomorrow.”  At that point, a vision of a pair of stooped grey shoulders started slowly up the steps and a voice seemed to say, “Then I’ll have to go alone.”  Gossip concluded his story by saying, “We went together.”  

Such a story has been told by many others, and the idea, the thought, the experience parallels my own—and so my thoughts about religious experience are not really my own, they are not new or original, but colored by the experiences and the thinking of others.

Anker Larsen wrote, “I sat in my garden but there was no place in the world where I was not.”  Have you ever experienced this feeling, this thought?  When I experienced this thought just the other day, sitting on my deck in the back lawn, I thought it was something only I had ever thought.  But no, others (like Larsen) have felt the same and thought the same—my thoughts are not original.  Anker Larson also wrote, that the greatest thing that any man could do for another was to confirm the deepest thing he has within him.  So it is, the thoughts of others “confirm” our own. 

Perhaps only God can say, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways” (Isaiah 55:8, NEB). 

The first Dahlia blossom of 2016

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