Thursday, May 31, 2007

The First Right Answer

Roger von Oech in his book A Whack on the Side of the Head shares a variation of the following story and how it relates to the tyranny of the first right answer.

A high school teacher
walked in to her class one day, walked up to the blackboard and made a mark similar to the one below. She simply asked, "What is it?"

The class remained silent, with the exception of a few heads looking around looking somewhat bewildered. Several moments passed and then someone piped up, "It's a chalk mark."

The teacher looked around the room. As she did, it was obvious that everyone was in agreement. "That's it....?" She asked. "I'm surprised at you. I did this yesterday with a bunch of kindergartners and they gave me a huge list of things..." Things like:

a piece of gum stuck to the bottom of my shoe,
a smashed bug,
a snowball,
a little rock,
my daddy's cigarette butt,
a guitar,
a hook with a worm on it,

and the list went on...

What happens to our creative and imaginative abilities as we get older? The average four-year-old asks roughly 200 questions a day, while the average twenty-year-old asks a lumping 20. That number often only diminishes more with age.

Part of the problem could be that since our first days in the educational process, we have been well trained to find “the answer." And more often than not, there was only one. We looked for “the one,” filled in the blank, and moved on to the next question. That works well for breezing through a biology class, where most of us didn’t want to be there in the first place. I used to love those “easy” teachers that handed us the fill-in-the-blank worksheets… Each question encoded with the exact phrase of the book…

The challenge is… Life and ministry doesn’t always adhere to a fill-in-the-blank methodology. In fact, it rarely does. But many of us still go through life looking for the "right answer," and generally we stop at the first one. Problems, crisis, issues in relationships, family, and ministry arise, and we quickly fill-in-the-blank. As a result, our thinking capacities have been limited and our creativity and imagination rendered handicap.

Moreover, perhaps there's a "Second Right Answer," or third or fourth. Creativity, innovation and inspiration are generally not discovered until we delve into the process of looking, asking, and searching for the second, third, fourth and so on "Right Answer."

It has been said,

"Nothing is more dangerous than an idea
when it is the only one we have."

(Emile Chartier)

May we begin to see things with the eyes of a kindergardner. May we be able to recover our inquisitiveness, sense of discover, and there could be more than one answer...

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