Saturday, May 17, 2008

Toward a Meaning of Depth

I often hear the term "deep" thrown around to describe various things, i.e., "deep conversation" or "deep discussions" or "deep friendships." Typically, the term is used in a very positive way, it is a characteristic that we desire things to have. I agree that I want depth in a lot of things, but I have realized that there is a lack of clarity, to me at least, as to what a we mean when we say "deep."

Very often, I think that we usually take "deep" to mean either "serious" or "abstract." When we have a very serious conversation we describe it as deep. When someone throws out an abstract idea in a discussion we call them a deep thinker. But I don't think that is necessarily the best way to look at this. To illustrate, lets first explore what we mean when we describe something as "shallow" as opposed to "deep."

Shallow is usually synonymous with "trite." A trite conversation is one that is has no real importance or significance. Talking about your hair color has no real effect on anyone else beyond some superficial opinion judgment. So that seems a very insignificant thing. I think we can justifiably declare "deep" to be the opposite of "shallow." So it would seem that depth implies that what is being discussed actually has some significance. It has an important impact on someone, it is meaningful. In that sense, depth is not merely serious or abstract. In fact, something serious or abstract may actually be shallow if it is meaningless or insignificant.

So how does this apply to various things? First, we need to realize that depth is probably a relative thing, and by relative, I mean based on the situation. So for instance, a conversation would be deep if the things said had a significant or meaningful impact on their audience. If someone is dealing with a situation, depth would involve giving them good advice as opposed to changing the subject to something that has little impact on their situation. So a deep person would be one who is able to discern what is important in a situation or conversation and able to express things meaningfully and positively affect others. A deep relationship would be one where this occurs mutually, each individual positively affecting the other, whether that be by encouragement, advice, constructive criticism, or some other means.

This being said, depth probably doesn't look the same in every case. I think you can be very light-hearted and funny and have a lot of depth if what you're saying has some sort of meaningful impact. Likewise, I don't think that a "deep conversation" has to be serious in tone or academic in nature provided the things that come out have some significance. The measure of that significance may even be different to different individuals in different circumstances. Basically, depth to me seems to be a combination of discernment (or maybe sensitivity to the situation at hand) and the confidence to apply that discernment to the given situation.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Trying to Process and Respond

From another blog, in response to events at Southeastern Bible College:

The news we got this week is still pretty hard to believe. How could someone (or two individuals) we held so dearly and looked up to so much fall so far? How do we make sense of someone trading paradise for a bite of fruit? Is it any easier when that person is someone we revere, someone we considered a role model, the epitome of what it meant to be a Godly individual?

How do we respond in this kind of a situation? One initial response is shock. Another is anger. Yet both of these seem somewhat misguided. None of us can say this could never happen to me. We all let ourselves be carried away by sin at times. We all find ourselves on the edge of disaster, faced with choices that are hard to make. Sometimes we all fail. So what right do we have to be angry? While we can rightly say what was done is wrong, we can make that judgment, are we really in a position to look at them condemningly? Can any of us throw the first stone? And how can we be shocked that this has happened, we see the roots of the same things in ourselves. The fact that two individuals whom we all thought so highly of have been caught in this should be proof that none of us are immune.

So how should we respond? How do we look at this? At least for me, what seems the most appropriate and overwhelming reaction is sorrow. These two have destroyed themselves to a great extent. They have lost a lot of what they stood for, what defined them. Dreams and goals are now completely abandoned. Can the friendships they had ever continue on the same level? Can they in any way justify what they are doing with what they believe and have taught so many others? Looking at what these two have now become, what they have left of themselves and their lives, all I can really feel is sorrowful for them.

I think the impact this has may be beneficial to many. There is a certain healthy suspicion that comes when some disaster like this occurs. Not necessarily of others- how can I judge what I do not know?- but of ourselves. We all know that we have this same potential to fall. We should see in this a reminder of that. A reminder that we should be ever-mindful of our own intentions and actions so that we do not put ourselves in the same situations, falling into the same mistakes. This is not to say that we can with absolute assuredness avoid this kind of thing ourselves. But I know for me that it is going to be hard to get this out of mind. Every time I pick up certain books I will think of it. Every time I encounter certain people I will think of these others whom we have for all practical purposes lost. The constant reminder of the nuclear shell that they set off with their actions will I think act as a deterrent in large part to me ever even starting down the same paths. I cannot say that I can maintain perfection, but I can say that this has a huge impact on me moving forward. To at least some extent I hope it does the same for many others.

I hope and pray that these two are able, in some way, to remove themselves from the mess into which they have landed. They certainly cannot turn back the clocks. They cannot fix what they have done, the consequences will follow them for years to come still, no matter what they do now. Looking at this raises so many questions about a host of issues moral, theological, and personal. I don't want to even begin to try and unravel those here. What I want more than anything is for them to sort through this situation themselves, to find a solution, to seek reconciliation and forgiveness with God and with those they have affected. I want for us to be able to move beyond this, but to still remember their mistake so we can avoid the same.

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