One day last week, I was driving to my office shortly after dawn. I noticed in the eastern sky a most stunning cloud formation which seemed surreal both in color and shape. It appeared to be a perfect match for England, Scotland, and Wales (you know, the one island), and then off to the upper left and separated by the perfect amount of blue sky (sea) was Ireland. The shapes were strikingly similar and seemed scaled perfectly in size and dimension. I knew I should be watching the road while driving, and I did, but I could not help but occasionally lift my eyes and peer through the windshield to point out the cities on the “map.” London. Dublin. Belfast. Edinburgh, Glasgow. They were all there and in perfect relationship to one another.
And, yes, I did keep my eyes on Loop 1604 as I muddled forward in traffic. If you’ve ever driven that corridor, you know the life-and-death stakes of not staying riveted on the stop and start traffic.
I thought I’d take one more astonished look up at the UK before taking my exit. Gazing happily to the same cloud formation, to my amazement, the British Isles had suddenly turned into what appeared to be a chicken chasing a hammer. This chicken was in full stride in hot pursuit of the large tool, looking now more like a large anvil on the run. A chicken chasing an anvil – how inspiring!
If you’ve ever lain in the grass with a sibling and played the game of spotting animal shapes in cloud formations, you know that not every person in the world possess the same perception as you.
In religion, some people read their holy books (Bible, Torah, Talmud, Quran, Veda) literally like a user’s manual for a microwave oven. History has proved that the more literal a reading of holy scripture, the more dangerous the followers. With these, there is no shadow of turning on the smallest of details. Others of us seek to determine what that holy writ is seeking to communicate and make our lives, our whole beings breathing, living embodiments of what we believe.
About twenty years ago at YouthCUE conferences, I began flashing the FedEx logo on the wall, asking conference participants if they had ever noticed the right-pointing white arrow between the “E” and the “x.” Only a few had ever noticed it before that time, so it was a revelation. Once you’ve seen that white arrow in the FedEx logo, it’s almost impossible to not see it when you spot a passing FedEx truck.
It’s stunning to think that one group of people can hear a political speech and think of it as the best thing uttered in four generations. Another group across the room, across town, or across the country can listen and watch the same speech and find it shallow, out of touch, and little more than show.
How do we know what’s real? How do we know what things are good, true, honest, faithful and dependable?
I was surely fond of my cloud formation early that morning. I even thought about pulling out my phone and taking a photo of it. Perhaps I should have done so, because less than two minutes later, the power of the wind had turned the majestic British Isles into a chicken chasing a block of steel.
How do we know what’s real, what’s true, what’s what? Time will tell. The winds will give us a good idea of what is real and what is fleeting, fluff, and froth. Meanwhile, in our own lives, we best watch the road immediately ahead of us, lest we critically injur ourselves and the people around us as we chase our fascinating fogs.