“Thinking outside of the box” is popular rhetoric for looking at things differently. But, the task asks for more than is often realized–realizing that you are “boxed” already and have a built-in, ego based aversion for escaping that narrow view of the world. And though you might bounce around the notion of “thinking outside of the box,” just be aware that you are not likely to do it beyond a comfort zone and that getting beyond that “comfort zone” is where the action is. Getting beyond one’s comfort zone is the essence of “spirituality,” a term I use to refer to getting down into the “foul and ragged bone shop of the heart” where we actually live. I will readily admit that the spirituality of my life has usually been designed to avoid this “catastrophe”; and it is “catastrophic” when we begin to step outside of the comfort zone our box has provided us and begin to delve into the heart.
Another way to approach “thinking outside of the box” is paradigm shifting. But, once again, you can’t begin to “paradigm shift” until you have the honesty and self-awareness to acknowledge that you are confined by a paradigm. And we all are. It is called “being human.” But I’ve spent my life avoiding my human-ness, remaining in the comfort zone of my preconceptions and biases, i.e. my “box.” And my Christian faith has been the most important dimension of my “box” and I am only now beginning to explore this matter. And this is not to diminish the teachings of Jesus but merely to recognize that His teachings always come to an individual in a cultural context; and, try as we may, we cannot fail to consider the impact of the cultural context on our interpretations of His teachings and on the interpretation of every dimension of life.
The particular cultural context that I was born into offered me a spirituality that solved this “dilemma” by teaching that “cultural context” did not have any role in spirituality, that it came to us directly from on high without any interference by little difficulties like preconceptions and biases. And that “solution” was the very heart of the problems which I’m beginning to explore and is very relevant to the lunacy so very apparent today in evangelical Christianity in my country.
A closing thought from the philosopher Paul Ricoeur, “You can’t have a perspective on your perspective without somehow escaping it.”