Include and Transcend — Center for Action and Contemplation

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Include and Transcend

By Richard Rohr | ONEING Vol. 8 No. 2 | Order, Disorder, Reorder

The human preference for binary thinking has kept us from seeing that when history evolves with a new idea, cultural mood, or consciousness, we need not (dare not, actually!) completely exclude the previous idea, mood, or consciousness.

We grow best by including what was good and lasting in the previous stage and avoiding the overreaction and rebellious spirit that have characterized most revolutions up to now. This demands both humility and the capacity for non-dual thinking, qualities that are rare in most zealots, reformers, and revolutionaries. Slash-and-burn only creates a whole new set of things to correct or rebel against in the long haul. Either-or thinking creates disjunction and mistrust immediately. Both-and thinking creates continuity and trust over time.

This nonviolent compromise can most simply be stated as include and transcend. It is at the core of what we mean by wisdom and by nonviolence.

As it applies here, we can trust and even need certain kinds of “disorder” to clarify what our original “order” meant, lacked, or intended. There are always a few needed correctives to every new proposition—and those correctives only appear over time and with practice. Thus, we have amendments to our original American Constitution—and now, some think that these also need to be amended. Every reform becomes its own new orthodoxy and the painful pattern of growth begins all over again. Yes, this is the rub of evolution, like the grinding of tectonic plates.

If we can rightly achieve an integration of original plan plus correctives, rule plus “the exception that proves the rule,” order plus disorder, we have what I am calling reorder! And this is good—at least for
a while. Reorder moves us forward in a positive way, but then sets the stage for the pattern to continue all over again. Even good reorder, in time, becomes its own faulty, yet canonized, order and its own cracks will begin to show. The need for humility and creativity never stops. This pattern must have been much easier when the human lifespan was forty years, but, at age seventy-seven, I have gone through this cycle at least four good times.

Order, by itself, normally wants to eliminate any disorder and diversity, creating a narrow and cognitive rigidity in both people and systems.

Disorder, by itself, closes us off from any primal union, meaning, and eventually even sanity in both people and systems.

Reorder, or transformation of people and systems, happens when both are seen to work together.

In my book The Wisdom Pattern, I shared an outline which illustrates how the great spiritualties and philosophies often taught this quite directly, but with different vocabularies, symbols, and metaphors:

• Native peoples called it the cycle of Day ► Night ► Sunrise or Sun ► Moon ► Sun or
Summer ► Fall ► Winter ► Spring.

Every reform becomes its own
new orthodoxy.

• Scientists speak of star ► supernova explosion ► vast amounts of light and energy.

• World Mythologies present stories of Journey ► Fall ► Return to a new home.

• Religions often use some form of Birth ► Sin ► Rebirth or
Law ► Failure ► Forgiveness or
all is okay ► catastrophe ► hope.

• The Bible presents it as Garden of Eden ► Fall ► Paradise.

• Walter Brueggemann teaches three kinds of Psalms:
Psalms of Orientation ► Psalms of Disorientation ► Psalms of New Orientation.1

• There are three sections to the Hebrew Scriptures:
Law ► Prophets ► Wisdom.

• Speakers and writers often refer to three steps forward and
two steps backward.

• Johann Fichte (1762–1814) called it thesis ► antithesis ► synthesis.2

• George Ivanovich Gurdjieff (1866–1949) called it Holy Affirming ► Holy Denying ► Holy Reconciling.3

• Philosophy speaks of Classic or Essentialism ► Postmodern or Existentialism or Nihilism ► Process or Evolutionary Philosophy.

• Chemistry illustrates the pattern through solution ► dissolution ► resolution.

• Paul Ricœur (1913–2005) spoke of First Naïveté ► Complexity ► Second Naïveté 4
or First Simplicity (dangerous) ► Recalibration ► Second Simplicity (enlightened).

• The Recovery movement speaks of Innocence ► Addiction ► Recovery.

• Many now just speak generally of construction ► deconstruction ► reconstruction.

• Christians call it Life ► Crucifixion ► Resurrection.


Given the prevalence of this recurring theme, it must now be considered culpable blindness that most people still consider it somewhat of a surprise, a scandal, a mystery, or something to be avoided or overcome by an easy jump from stage one (order) to stage three (reorder). This is human hubris and illusion. Progress is never a straight and uninterrupted line, but we have all been formed by the Western Philosophy of Progress that tells us it is, leaving us despairing and cynical.

Reorder moves us forward
in a positive way, but then sets
the stage for the patterns to
continue all over

So, what does this demand of leaders and teachers? More than anything else, humility and creativity! These virtues offer the detachment and patience that allow history to move forward because they keep our absolutes, our certitudes, and our obstinacy out of the way. Even God submits to mercy and forgiveness toward “what used to be.” Apparently, God enjoys doing this because it never stops happening: Every original “order” (and I do think I mean “every”) learns to include an initially threatening disorder, which morphs into and creates a new reordering, and we begin all over again. . . .

Oneing: Order, Disorder, Reorder is available now in print or as a downloadable PDF.

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