When I came across this cartoon the other day at the “Value of Saintliness Blog” (you can visit the site here) I knew my readers would appreciate it. Let’s all have a good chuckle and then you can rejoin me below for a debriefing.
Once the chortles have subsided, what’s the take away lesson from this cartoon?
Some people would say the lesson is skepticism. That is, once we recognize that we are merely the latest twig on a perpetually growing, tangled and unimaginably vast and complex vine we will call into question every judgment we make from the outer reaches of our twig. The only escape from provincialism and hubris is to refuse to say that we any closer to “the Truth” than any other twig. And that means adopting a heady dose of skepticism.
But take a closer look at that analysis and problems emerge. You see, one of the judgments we make from the outer reaches of our twig is that we should call into question every judgment from our twig. But this skepticism is itself a judgment made from our twig. Do you see the problem here? If we are to be skeptical of our judgments we should be skeptical of our skepticism. Skepticism, you see, is not a neutral position which helps us step outside of our historical location altogether and assume an austere view from nowhere. Rather, it is but one more manifestation of a perspective on the outer reaches of one slowly growing twig,
So if a general skepticism isn’t the right answer then what is?
Let me suggest a far better response: humility. In other words, when we realize that we’re on the outer reaches of one twig we will be infused with a healthy recognition of our own limited horizons. As a result, we will be less apt to dismiss others and more apt to listen, recognizing that another twig just might have some important insights into the truth of things.
We twigs need to stick together.