Interfaith Worker Justice Matching Gift
The Importance of Being Earnest

The Spring


He is thirsty, and is cut off from a spring by a mere clump of bushes. But he is divided against himself: one part overlooks the whole, sees that he is standing here and that the spring is just beside him; but another part notices nothing, has at most a divination that the first part sees all. But as he notices nothing he cannot drink. - Franz Kafka

In teaching advisors and fundraisers to ask biq questions about the donor or client's vision, or aspirations, what the donor wants to accomplish, you have at some point got to deal with teaching people to listen - and to perform what might be called an interpretation, as improbable an act as that might be during a business meeting where large sums are at issue. If touched by the right question, what will tumble out of a client or donor is not a fact, or a coherent statement, most often but a jumble, a mixed up mesh of narratives, images, reminiscences, memories, digressions, names of the long dead, resentments, furies, and yearnings. Aristotle plainly says that a drama has a beginning, middle and end. Somewhere near the end is a turning point and a recognition, as the protagonist recognizes, sometimes in horror, who he or she was, is, and will be. At least that is the pattern in tragedy, a well made tragedy. But in real life, the recognitions are "the hum of thoughts evaded in the mind," as Wallace Stevens says poetry is. We speak in giving of "inspiration," as if we could conjure devils or gods at our own will, as if our vanity was fortunate. What the donor gives us when the living spirit is touched is seldom a parable like Kafka's but the narrative resists interpretation, or offers one as bogus as a wax apple. The turning point is every second of our lives. The recognition, the moment of truth in which we see our own character, is most often never. Maybe God saves our moment of recognition for Heaven or Hell. That is why when we speak of Hyperagents or Leaders, in an admiring way, we have proven ourselves the Dupe, or Knave, not the Fool. Nihil admirare. To listen is to listen for the sound of water. Had we heard water we might have drunk. Had we drunk we might have heard.