Someone recently told me that something I said in a sermon was prophetic. I didn’t have a chance to ask them what they meant by it so I don’t really know how they were using the word. In my experience of the word, people typically use it in one of two ways–either they use it to describe the authority with which one makes a pronouncement or they use it to suggest that there is some predictive aspect to what the person has said. I use the word differently.
In my estimation, prophets are people who simply tell the Truth. And when I say Truth, I am not talking about the facts about how things appear to be unfolding along a timeline. That’s what analysts do. When I say Truth, I am talking about the Present and Eternal Truth that permeates all of what we perceive as time. My prophet is someone who surrenders their concept of the present—a singular moment suspended between a static past and an uncertain future—and aligns it with the interconnected present of everything and everyone. Whatever they say then is as timeless as saying, “There is gravity on earth.” They accept what is and contribute their energy to the natural flow of Isness.
If a person seeks to profess and live by the enduring and impartial Truth, they will speak with authority and to those who are in denial or unaware that there is a pattern to Life’s flow, it may appear that they speak predictively. That’s just how it is. However, someone can speak with authority and make predictions all day long and have no awareness of Truth at all. For one thing, there is a little thing that we call manipulation that will enable people to make accurate predictions within the realm of a certain temporal context. Of course, manipulation only can be sustained so long. Thus, these predictions do not endure the “test of time”. Think Bernie Madoff’s predictions or the housing market a few years ago or pretty much everything created satisfy human whims.
Unfortunately, most people tend to prefer the Bernie Madoff kinds of prophecies. In my observation, a great many of us prefer to be manipulated. There are a whole lot of reasons for that–the top one being fear of the Unknown. Many of us would rather be told something with certainty rather then be told with clarity that the manipulated future is uncertain; even if the latter is always True. If there were no other reason for our preference for manipulation, fear of the Unknown would be enough for most of us to follow the pied-pipers of the world.
Besides this fear factor, there’s also the fact that for countless generations much information was withheld from the general populace of many cultures. Consider that as recently 1820 only 12% of the world’s population was literate¹. Travel restrictions also placed significant limitation on people having direct experiences with people and ideas that varied from those they were indoctrinated into. So for generations many people only knew what they were told by the “leaders” and people who raised them. But I am not trying to get into educational disparities either. I’m just trying to illustrate that coupling fear of the Unknown with lack of information and the Truth of Uncertainty gets that must less attractive.
But now here we are at the tail end of the so called Information Age still as afraid of the Unknown as we were 1,000 years ago. Why? Well for one thing, we are using the relatively new ability to acquire information in an old way. We are still operating from obsolete paradigms in terms of social structure, access to resources, etc. But again, I am not trying to get into social commentary. I’m just calling out that our fear is affecting how we process the information that we do have access to and it is determining the information we seek out. Basically we are still informational cowards.
The Way Out of Cowardice
If we are to ever live into the full potential of this Age and get prepared for the age to come (more on that later), we are going to have to start telling the Truth. That begins with accepting that there are things that we do not know. We have to own our ignorance and start actively seeking enlightenment opportunities rather than looking for information to justify our lack of understanding. There was an excuse when we didn’t have access. But now we’re just being lazy. If you need a place to start expanding your horizons, check out All Sides and engage other people’s points of view.
Next step, get in a conversation with people who think differently than you do and listen to learn and speak to enlighten. That’s something we do very poorly in our societies. We explain to convince and filter for our prejudices. I think a good reminder of a more effective conversational style comes from China.(I’m not saying everyone in China does this. I’m just saying that the language expresses the ideal.)
One of the words for explain in Mandarin is shuoming 说明. It is comprised of the words for say and bright. And the word bright itself is composed of the words that mean sun 日and moon 月. To break it down more, from the linguistic perspective the Chinese concept of explaining assumes that the person to whom you are explaining will be enlightened or made brighter by what you say. If that is not the case, then you have not accurately explained anything.
In complement to shuoming 说明, if someone wanted to acknowledge that they’ve understood what you have attempted to explain, they will say 我明白 Wo mingbai. Mingbai is a mashup of the previously mentioned word for bright and the word for white. When the person responds to your explanation this way, they are essentially saying, “I am enlightened by what you just shared.” Any conversations that are less than this can be improved. Any conversations that fulfill this are what I am calling “prophet sharing”–that is Truth sharing.
If I said anything prophetic in my recent sermon, it was because I started by admitting that I am ignorant in some areas and can learn from others. That’s the Truth and it always will be. In my summation, as long as I am willing to admit this and then listen to learn and speak to enlighten, I will speak with authority and the flow of what I say will stand the test of time.