Both in college and in graduate school we were (it seemed to me at the time) constantly assaulted with the concept of a paradigm shift. I came to loathe that phrase, but not because I didn’t understand it. They gave excellent examples. I knew what they were talking about. EXAMPLE: Native Americans went from roaming the territory hunting and gathering to living in small villages with gardens. It’s a whole different way of thinking and approaching the fundamentals of life.
We learned about Thomas Kuhn who defined and popularized the term in 1962. He also insisted that these shifts were not evolutionary. They don’t happen because of an ongoing series of events. They happen because of intellectually violent revolutions in which one conceptual world view is replaced by another. Blah blah blah. Have you stopped reading yet? Maybe dozed off just a little bit? Took a break to make your shopping list?
Imagine how hard it was for a whole tribe of people to accept that maybe it would be better, easier, healthier to stay in one place all year and have more control over the food supply. Imagine how hard it was when even if they tried this willingly they soon found that it changed the way they did everything, not just putting food on the table. It even changed their relationships. It was a whole different world.
Those who had learned to survive, even thrive, with the old way of doing things found it hard to learn a whole new way of life. Why should they? For them the old way worked just fine, and if there were some problems that needed work, the answer was more than likely to go back even farther and embrace the original ways of the ancestors – or what they remembered about those ancestors and those ways – or thought they remembered – or made up to suit their argument. It’s a battle. Thomas Kuhn was right. It’s a revolution.
By the way, revolution comes from the Latin revolutio which means “a turn around.” When I was a kid we called it fruit basket turnover. Everything is dumped out and goes back in a different order. Some things don’t make it back in. Some things are now in for the first time.
As Ann Landers used to say (and I’m really dating myself here because it was 40-50 years ago), “Wake up and smell the coffee!” We are in the middle of a paradigm shift right now this very minute. Whether you welcome a whole new world view or not, it is uncomfortable because we don’t know exactly where it is going to end up or where it will leave us. We don’t know what our place will be in the new world view. We don’t know if there is a place for us. We are afraid of being left behind, not being picked for the team, not having the control we want.
For the most part I embrace this paradigm shift, but I am so tired of fighting those who think it is a manifestation of all that is wrong and evil with the world. I am tired of people who think they have everything figured out and make pronouncements about the way things are and they way things are going to stay or else! Or else what? You will fire me? If the majority want me to go, I will go. I will find another way to live in the world that is and not the world that was. But honestly, doesn’t it make more sense for us work together and find a way for all of us to fit into the new world? What will it take to relieve your fear and anger enough that you can see that this new world is for all of us and not just for people who want something different than you currently want?
I remember lots of talk, too much talk, about what a paradigm shift is, but I don’t remember anyone explaining how to help people live through, much less embrace the shift. Is it absolutely necessary for the revolution to be violent? Maybe it is, but it hurts to see so many casualties. Even if you succeed in ridding your life of me and those who think like me, I will be fine. You will be adrift.
Today’s reading is 2 Kings 5:1-15. Naaman has a case of chronic leprosy. Apparently it’s not all that severe because he is still a working General and hasn’t been condemned to live down by the garbage dump, away from polite society. Nevertheless, this condition is getting in the way of living life the way he wants. He’s tried all the respectable healers and answers and they didn’t help. His wife’s slave mentions that there is a prophet in her country who could help.
He’s desperate. So he goes to the king of her country – not to the prophet, but to the man in charge of everything. The king can’t help him. So he is forced to seek out this prophet. The prophet’s assistant takes his greeting in to the prophet and returns with a prescription. This is infuriating to a man of Naaman’s importance. How dare this prophet not even come out and speak to him face to face. He deserves better treatment than this. He’s not just anybody. What good is this prescription anyway? It doesn’t make sense. It couldn’t possibly work.
But he’s desperate. And he complies. And he is healed. Then his mind is changed. He realizes that he was wrong. That there are other ways of doing things, other ways of figuring importance and value, other ways that just might work when everything you thought you knew would not work.
Do we have to be desperate to wake up to reality? to hear truth?