When I was learning to drive, the one thing that intrigued me was being aware of my blind spots. Someone tried to explain to me what these blind spots were but the problem was that I could clearly see what was being pointed at, this made me question over whether they were really blind spots.
In reality blind spots are the spots that you can’t see, especially the part of the road behind the tree or the traffic around the corner. The areas that are beyond what was visible to the naked eye. It requires intuition, experience, and the ability to look out for clues like headlights and the noise a car makes, but for the most part there was a lot of guesswork. Of course, new drivers are not as aware of their blind spots in the same way that a more experienced driver would be.
I’ve just finished reading “Misreading Scriptures with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Bliners to Better Understand the Bible” by E. Randolph Richards, Brandon J. O’Brien, and I am reflecting over what I had read. It’s a book about recognising that cultural differences can cause us to misunderstand a verse or make a presumption about a passage. In turn, I guess it’s cultural differences that can cause us to make incorrect assumptions about someone.
One thing that strikes me as quite astonishing as I go through life, is learning from people of different cultures and backgrounds, whether I am talking to someone from Yorkshire, or London, or the USA, or another country, every time we come to a misunderstanding, I take a forward step in becoming more aware of our cultural tendency and blinders.
This book covers a lot of interesting points about how Westerners view the world.
One of them was over dualistically. Things are true or false, right or wrong, good or bad. I have come across many people who have shown little patience for ambiguity of the unsettling reality that values change over time.
As English is a subject-verb language; it is actor- and action-oriented. We prefers sentences with a clear subject and a clear predicate, and we like it best when the verb is in the active voice. It is difficult to construct a meaningful sentence in English without a subject.
For example, if we say for instance a boy’s tricycle was broken. “The tricycle is broken” is a perfectly good Indonesian sentence. The writer asked, “Who broke the tricycle? The question caught them by surprise. Indonesian isn’t set up to express that kind of cause and effect. The proper way to state it was, “The tricycle is broken”
This is why, as we pointed out above, “Blessed are the peacemakers” turns in our minds to “God blesses the peacemakers”.
Westerners are wired, by virtue of our worldview, to seek cause-and-effect connections in everything. We instinctively ask, “Why did this happen?” When we read the story of Job, for example, we tend to emphasize why these things happened to Job. We may be emphasizing the wrong point. Job never does know why those things happened.
It mentions difference between the Collectivist cultures over honour/shame cultures, and Individualist cultures tend also to be right/wrong (innocence/guilt) cultures.
There was a topic over the importance of time in Western culture as illustrated by the time-related virtues we celebrate. Efficiency-the ability to do the most work in the least time-is an important Western virtue. So are punctuality, planning and predictability. These have their corresponding vices. Inefficiency, tardiness, nearsightedness and undependability are amount the deadly sins (at least of business) in America.
There was an example where the Indonesian fishermen friends seemingly have all the time in the world. While we have deadlines, he writes that he can hear his fishermen friends laughing. How can you “run out of” time? In their world, “there is always tomorrow until one day there’s not, and then it won’t matter.” For them procrastination is a virtue. Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow? When tomorrow comes, you might find you didn’t need to do it at all. For Westerners, the sand is running out of the hourglass! The clock is ticking!
There would be some confusion if people responded to your “Good morning” with “No, it’s already midday.” when it wasn’t even 10 a.m. Apparently, the time of day may be connected to the temperature, and not the clock. Once the morning had turned hot, in their eyes it was considered to be midday. When it cooled down in the afternoon, it was another time. If it wasn’t complicated enough; they use to use this to mark the starting time for their church service. How do you start church at “hot”? That would make it difficult for everyone to show up at the same time. Evidently, you will find that people wander in over the course of an hour or so. But church never starts late.
I might take a long time recognise where my blind spots are, or take years to work out the intent of the person I am speaking with. I might even need some support or guidance or clear instructions. But are we all patient enough to do this? Do we have enough time in the day to listen? May you be blessed by God if you at least try to understand.