In 1992, I entered a graduate program in Communication Theory with confidence that my profound “insights” would be treasured by all within the sound of my golden voice. Two years later, I stumbled across the stage to receive my diploma, wondering how I even got into graduate school let alone got a Master’s Degree. The number one thing I learned in graduate school is how little I know. Day after day, paper after paper, presentation after presentation, I grew ever more aware of my own deficiencies.
Over the last ten years, I’ve tried to hold this lesson close to my heart. No matter how much I read, no matter how I speak, no matter how much (or how little) I write, I still know next to nothing. In the mystery of this grand creation, I am truly overwhelmed in wonder.
Lately, I’ve been learning a new thing: how much other people do know. Regardless of how much or how little they have read or been trained, I am surrounded by people of stunning brilliance. When I can shut my mouth long enough to listen and really face the people around me, I am always amazed.
I have come to agree with G.K. Chesterton who warned against the dangers of elitism. He once suggested that “The purpose of compulsory education is to deprive the common man of his common sense.” Chesterton staunchly defended the wisdom of common sense and the common person. But he did not pit the uneducated agains the educated either.
Chesterton says: “The common mind means the mind of all the artists and heroes; or else it would not be common. Plato had the common mind; Dante had the common mind. Commonness means the quality common to the saint and the sinner, to the philosopher and the fool; and it was this that Dickens grasped and developed. In everybody there is a certain thing that loves babies, that fears death, that likes sunlight: that thing enjoys Dickens. And everybody does not mean uneducated crowds; everybody means everybody.”
While I may dislike the sentiment expressed on the bumper stick on the car in front of me, I must be careful not assume that the driver has nothing to teach me. All through the Bible, God often uses the enemies of Israel to reveal His wisdom. The next time I determine another person should be ignored because they have the wrong opinion, or because they are not educated enough, or because they are educated too much, I might instead pause, and turn, and face them in the moment.
I still may disagree but I will have paused and turned and faced a person created in the image of God, and this is a treasure and a wonder that I should never take for granted.