Rich Paxson

Have you ever played a “trust exercise” with a partner? One where one partner is blindfolded, and the other is expected to verbally guide his/her partner, the blindfolded person, around the room, and then you switch? In the Discussion Forum for this step of the unit, share your experience.
What follows are a couple of language-based ‘trust anecdotes.’ Reflecting on them here in writing crystallized some ideas for me about foundations of faith, which I’ve summarized at the end.

My first teaching position was in the high school on Alaska’s Kodiak Island http://bit.ly/1huT8Hn . The student population included Kodiak town-kids, but also Alaskan native boarding students from around the state, who lived in their own dormitory. Finally, there were kids from the Coast Guard Station just a few miles from Kodiak up Woman Bay.

With this diverse of a student population, I used a communications exercise at the beginning of each semester. While it was not strictly a trust exercise, it did include impediments to communication, which students had to overcome through mutual guidance and trust.

One semester when I used the exercise with a class made up mostly of Inuit (Eskimo) kids, the Inuit kids started out using English, which was their second language, but switched to Inuit, their first-language in order to complete the exercise successfully. Without the comfort provided by their first-language these kids could not have achieved their goal.

I think at times all of us want to use to a comfortable, first-language to get our meaning across. I had dinner recently with an old friend who’s lived in Hawaii for the last fifty years. In conversation MItch used many Hawaiian-origin place names, reflecting his current first-language. Most of these place names were multi-syllabic, melodious, beautiful sounding words, but which were tough for me to make out, much less to pronounce. I wanted to expand my vocabulary to include these Hawaiian names. When I interrupted Mitch to repeat back particularly tough names, then Mitch corrected my pronunciation, saying ‘You’d get along just fine in Hawaii … after a few days!’

My point is the necessity of a common, but expanding language as a condition not only for clear communication, but also for mutual trust, discernment and guidance. So what about faith? Faith, I think, is no ‘ephemeral something’ existing in a vacuum, but the ability to act in our particular day-to-day world in a relationship with God that is informed within the bounds of a mutual, comfortable but expanding first-language.

Jesus spoke to the people of his time in Aramaic, their first-language, not the more universal Greek. In so doing God in Jesus chose to share God’s unconditioned love and forgiveness in a Way that was accessible to all. We experience God’s love, the essential underpinning of faith, in relation with one another, trusting in God to share God’s love and guidance within the bounds of a mutual, comfortable-but-expanding first-language.