Hope (the Fairest Flower in Christendom) had to find the room in which I was discussing culture and ideas with a most excellent group of graduate students.
The university where I was speaking had picked a building where on my particular hallway each room looked exactly like the other. At the start of the session, the lamp blew out in the overhead projector and so we had to move next door. The university moved the sign and all the stuff from the class. The new room was next door and looked just like the previous room. Hope went to the previous room and knew they had moved me without even looking at the room number: she has an inbuilt GPS that took her to where she needed to be.
I was not there. She was bemused, though (given the loudness) she found me quickly.
Oddly, this is one of the only situations where my utter inability to navigate would have helped me. Because I have no sense of where things are, I learn visual clues (like where signs are) to find my way. I would have gone to the room where the class now was being held and might never have noticed the difference. My goal is to get to the right room, not the right space. When we are driving out and about, Hope is often a more trustworthy guide than the GPS. My rule: when Hope says turn, do so.
One obvious conclusion: being married to someone who is better than you (in some area) is good. That is true, but hopefully everyone knows this truth. In any relationship, listen to the person who knows, not yourself if you are not good at the thing she knows.
This is basic.
Yet this little incident reminded me of something a bit less basic . . . that sometimes we get to the right place philosophically or theologically, but without really knowing where we are or how we should have gotten there. This philosophical luck might even come (in part) with a few shortcuts we have taken to make up for our lack of understanding or ability. We hope the culture does not move the signs and we end up in the right place.
A good culture puts up signs and gets us to the right place morally and philosophically. We don’t know where we are really, but it is the right place so (perhaps) that does not matter. The trouble comes in times of change. Things don’t work in the old room so things move.
That’s great if the class stays the same fundamentally like it did in our case, but what if the course had been hijacked by someone completely different. That’s not likely to happen in a class, but cultures do go awry. Imagine a culture that used to put up signs arguing for morality and then changed to a culture that said the opposite when you got to the “morality class.”
The folks like I am who just follow the signs would go awry. Those that got what was really true, good, and beautiful (like Hope) would be concerned. They would go to the truth and find nobody there. I know Hope well enough to know that in that situation she would stay in the “old” room and wait for history to bring back the folks.
God is in charge of history so the folks will return.
As for people like I am, we drift to the new room and the new instructions and hardly notice. We need a new GPS.