Seek first to understand. –Greenleaf

In his essay, The Ethic of Strength, Greenleaf spends some time framing and then responding to a number of questions. This morning, Gentle Reader, I will begin a series of posts in which I will offer Greenleaf’s responses, briefly respond myself and invite you to reflect and respond.  Given this, let us continue. Greenleaf writes:

 What are the right questions to ask reflectively? I do not know of a standard set of right questions. The development of the feeling of total responsibility is a search, an individual search. The questions will be peculiar to each searcher, and they will probably change as the search progresses. We can get suggestions from the records of other seekers; but in the end, we must each ask our own questions. The following are the questions that seem important to me now in my own search.

 Before I offer us Greenleaf’s response I invite you, Gentle Reader, to pause and reflect and respond to this question: At this time in your life what are the questions that you must ask – what are your ‘own’ questions, the questions that you must respond to now and/or questions you must ‘hold’ and live into?

 Here is Greenleaf’s first question:

 Am I contemporary? Do I have a sense of history? Am I living in the current phase of developing history? Do I look with wonder at contemporary politics, philosophy, religion, economics, art, music, literature, science (both natural and social), business development? . . .The question. . .Can I hear the communication from the growing edges of my times? Am I able to hear what is being said to me before I judge it? Am I listening, really listening? . . .One cannot deal responsibly with contemporaries if one can hear only the voices of those who are dead, either the really dead. . .or those who are yet alive in the flesh but dead in spirit because they have nothing constructive to say to the times in which they live.

As I reflect upon Greenleaf’s questions I discern that, for me, there are questions within his questions: ‘What does it mean to ‘have a sense of history’? How does one know? What are the indicators that I am ‘living in the current phase of developing history’? What does it look like, feel like, sound like for me to ‘look with wonder’ at the contemporary aspects that Greenleaf lists? Do I really want to hear the ‘communication from the growing edges of my times’? How often do I judge before I really hear and/or understand? How often do I truly strive to understand first? How often can I affirm that I am ‘listening, really listening’? What are the indicators, for me, that another is ‘dead in spirit’? How do I know that I am not ‘dead in spirit’ – who can help me discern my aliveness or deadness? Am I searching to know – do I really want to know? How will I respond if I discover that I am ‘dead in spirit’?

Gentle reader: What are the questions that come to you as you reflect upon Greenleaf’s questions?

Why is there so little listening? –Greenleaf

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