What Good Is a Group?
The occasional spark. The intentional fire.
I’ve been wondering this lately: what good is a group?
Mrs. Kirkistan and I lead a small group that regularly meets together to read ancient texts. At the moment we’re slowly going through Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. It’s riveting stuff.
There comes a time in the life of every small group where people start to bow out. Life gets in the way. Work, sickness, commitments and gradually the small group is, well, really small. Only a few show.
Even so—with only one or two showing up—some magical spark can happen in the course of an ordinary conversation. We talked about the pointed words Jesus had to say about lust and adultery—old terms we don’t hear much in our culture—experiences so common they seem to be just expected parts of everyday life. In the course of hashing through those words, we talked about seeing people as objects. And suddenly I was making connections with Levinas and Buber and realizing I am also in need of reforming bad thought habits.
These conversational sparks happen at work too. Yesterday I was lamenting to myself the ways large corporations dampen the enthusiasm of otherwise bright, motivated people. In the middle of that thought a client returned a call that we had cut short the day before. He had been thinking through our conversation and had five or six things to add. This client—from a very large corporation—had found a way to take personal ownership of the process and our discussion had a sort of breathless excitement to it.
This is rare.
Our seemingly ordinary conversation had unearthed some live wire. And a group of us were doing our best to act on it.
So—all this to say that groups can do things individuals cannot. And sometimes a group conversation can create something brand new.
Dumb Sketch: Kirk Livingston