Lying in the backyard looking at the stars, Rev. Clovis Jones suddenly laughed out loud and turned to Texas Buddha. “Remember when we were in seminary and you got kicked out of class for getting all of us into an argument?”
Amy suddenly sat up, “What did he say?”
“I don’t remember which book of the Bible we were reading but, of course, we were all taking the Bible literally. So TB here starts asking questions and pointing out that we thought we were all taking the text literally, but we were each hearing it in our own way. So there we were, a room full of literalists at each other’s throat. Then he said, “You are fighting because none of you know your own hermeneutic.” That’s when the teacher asked him to leave.”
Amy propped herself on what arm, “What does that word mean?”
“Hermeneutics? It means how you interpret something, right TB?”
“Yes, the word comes from “Hermes” who was the messenger of the gods. Hermeneutics is an unfortunately scary word for a very important topic- how we make sense of things, particularly texts.
“ When we take up a book like the Bible, we think we are just looking at what the author meant, but we are sifting the words through the filter of our experience and whatever formulas we’ve been taught for simplifying what it all means.
“So we are hearing the same words very differently. A hermeneutic like a decoder ring. When we don’t realize that we are all interpreting by a different formula we can feel like everyone else is twisting what the text really says.”
“So why don’t we just throw out the whole idea of sacred books and just talk to one another?”
“Because the problem isn’t really in the books. We can have the same problem in everyday conversations. It just isn’t as pronounced.
“When a couple fights over who is going to do the dishes, that task may mean something different to each of them. To one partner, doing the dishes may just be a chore, to the other it may symbolize whether they are being respected in the relationship. If neither person realizes they aren’t really talking about the dishes, the situation can damage their whole relationship.
Reverend Jones went inside the house and was listening from the window as TB concluded his thought, “I once read an article that said the dirtiest, most germ infested object in most houses is the rag people are using to wash the dishes. A bad “decoder ring” can undermine the best attempts to understand and communicate. That is why Heraclitus said, “Even the eyes are poor witnesses to the barbarian soul.”
Rev. Jones did not entirely agree about the Bible not being literal, but he loved his friend and recognized that there was wisdom in what he was saying. So, to make sure TB would know he had been heard, Rev. Clovis Jones put on an Aerosmith CD, and came back out to listen to the words: “Something’s wrong with the world today, don’t know what it is. Something in our eyes.”