The Blessed “And”

Built to Last (1994) is based on thblessed ande research findings of business consultant and commentator, Jim Collins, as he asked why some companies were/are able to achieve and sustain success through multiple generations of leaders, across decades and even centuries.

Among his answers/findings? Adaptive and sustainable corporations embrace and exercise “the Genius of the ‘And’” (as opposed to “the Tyranny of the ‘Or’”).  His thesis, here, is conveyed in a few quotes:

  • [Too many, might we say, average companies] get caught up in what we call ‘The Tyranny of the Or,’ the belief that you cannot live with two seemingly contradictory ideas at the same time, that you can have change or stability, you can be conservative or bold, you can have low costs or high quality — but never both… The Tyranny of the OR pushes people to believe that things must be either A OR B, but not both. 
  • [Successful and] Visionary companies all operate in what we call ‘The Genius of the And,’ the ferocious insistence that they can and must have both at once…. Instead of being oppressed by the Tyranny of OR, highly visionary companies liberate themselves with the Genius of the AND the ability embrace both extremes of a number of dimensions at the same time. Instead of choosing between A B, they figure out a way to have both A AND B.

From a religious perspective, Richard Rohr will use different terms (speaking, e.g., of the “dualistic mind” and the need for a “third eye”) to address the same essential dynamics.  “Either-or” thinking works and is even essential in some arenas, Rohr argues.  But, it has its limits which have to be acknowledged on the way to our achieving, to borrow from Collins, “adaptive and sustainable” lives and faiths:

The dualistic mind is essentially binary, either/or thinking. It knows by comparison, opposition, and differentiation. It uses descriptive words like good/evil, pretty/ugly, smart/stupid, not realizing there may be a hundred degrees between the two ends of each spectrum. Dualistic thinking works well for the sake of simplification and conversation, but not for the sake of truth or the immense subtlety of actual personal experience. Most of us settle for quick and easy answers instead of any deep perception, which we leave to poets, philosophers, and prophets. Yet depth and breadth of perception should be the primary arena for all authentic religion. How else could we possibly search for God?

We do need the dualistic mind to function in practical life, however, and to do our work as a teacher, a nurse, a scientist, or an engineer. It’s helpful and fully necessary as far as it goes, but it just doesn’t go far enough. The dualistic mind cannot process things like infinity, mystery, God, grace, suffering, sexuality, death, or love; this is exactly why most people stumble over these very issues. The dualistic mind pulls everything down into some kind of tit-for-tat system of false choices and too-simple contraries, which is largely what “fast food religion” teaches, usually without even knowing it. Without the contemplative and converted mind [what Rohr will elsewhere will call the a “third eye” that embraces paradox], much religion is frankly dangerous.  (Rohr, Daily Meditation, January 29, 2017)

Given my penchant for “paradox” in matters of theology and spiritual formation, is it any wonder that I am strongly convinced of the crucial place of AND in our effectively navigating and preserving the mysteries of our Faith?  Here, to borrow from the title of one of Rohr’s books, “everything belongs”:
Faith AND Works,
Head AND Heart,
Spirit AND Structure,
Personal Holiness AND Social Holiness,
Traditional AND Contemporary,
Ancient AND Future,
Conservative AND Liberal,
Unity AND Diversity,
Reforming AND Reconciling,
Individual AND Community,
Caring for [Church Family] Members
AND Serving the Broken Beyond Our Walls,…

Even so, I find myself praying:
As You, the Alpha AND Omega,
Did embrace and contain Human AND Divine
And even now bridge Heaven AND Earth:
Be to us, now, not just the Supreme Paradox
Which informs, yes challenges, all lesser ORs.
But, be, as well, the Reconciler
Who inspires the Blessed AND—
uniting all things in Thee.

2 thoughts on “The Blessed “And”

  1. wendycrom says:

    Our pastor gave a sermon on the importance of the “why” behind the what we do. I like that we can include more “and” as well to be more resilient in our lives. Loved your prayer at the end.

    • Jim Reiter says:

      Thanks, Lois… So appreciate all your replies (even as I am sorry for the tardiness of this reply)!!!

      The “why” and the “and”: could it be that they are one… or part of the same playing field?

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