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Please Write This Book: How To Be Properly Peripheral

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A word for the 99%

Not everyone can be at the center. Not everyone is the leader, the big cheese, the boss. Some dwell on the fringe. Work, neighborhoods, any given party, hey—even families have members who are more comfortable sidling toward the exit.07302013-tumblr_mqjgwypsPD1qbcporo1_1280

In these posts I’ve written that the church is better off not being in the center of things: we do better speaking in from the periphery. Give the church power and it behaves like anyone with power: making the rules and silencing the voices that disagree.

But purposefully peripheral? That’s a hard case to make in our culture, where fame is everything. Especially since most of us struggle with a mild solipsism: do you or your pet poodle or your Prius remain when I walk out of the frame? I’m not so sure. I only know what I know because I am at the center of everything.

Consider: the leadership industry devises all sorts of ways to help people pull themselves up by their own bootstraps so they become the center point, the pulpiteer for their organization. The respected voice, influencing others, perhaps (sinister hope) controlling others. That’s the favored spot—am I right?

But purposefully peripheral? There’s a pretty compelling theological argument for looking for ways to serve rather than control. Please write the book about how that argument unfolds for the 99% of us who are workers rather than rock stars. Please write about how our small daily actions have an impact. Please give me a vision for how the quiet, mostly unnoticed work is really the glue that holds society together and is also—quite possibly—the neurotransmitters of divine action. Tell me again why listening trumps talking most of the time.

I’d read that book.

I’d buy that book.


Image credit: Ed Fairburn via 2headedsnake

Written by kirkistan

July 30, 2013 at 1:03 pm

6 Responses

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  1. Really enjoyed this post. Agree!


    July 30, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    • Thanks, Wendi–and thanks for reading.


      July 30, 2013 at 2:54 pm

  2. I fully agree to your thoughts! and yeah, that’d be an interesting book!! 🙂 but, maybe, they are already written…

    German novelist, poet and dramatist Heinrich von Kleist wrote a letter to his friend Otto August Rühle von Lilienstern. a letter published as “The sure way to find happiness”. there he advises him reading history (some profound advice when calling to mind that these times monumental history was en vogue) instead of soaking into novels about worlds of perfect ideals. 🙂 unfortunately one has to be very patient to find such a book, since – like Kleist wrote – we are too easily captured by the fierce. whereas the noble and good only gives a gentle impression on us who too easily enjoy themselves in admiration and rapture…

    J.A. Vas

    July 30, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    • Good words! The noble and good are so time consuming!


      July 30, 2013 at 7:33 pm

  3. Thanks for this post. I’ve wondered about this in the context of motivational speakers of all stripes who tell us we can have the life we want by following certain principles (generally outlined in the book they wrote and are trying to sell) and having enough fortitude to see our goals through to the end. Now this in no way is meant to cast the motivators (I use this term in a very general sense) in a negative light, only to highlight the fact that not everyone can write a book and then find a paying audience to listen and read their material. Perhaps this is just another way of saying, that most of us live on the periphery and not the center, as your post so aptly illustrates.


    August 20, 2013 at 7:13 am

    • Jason–thanks for reading. I do think most of us spend most of our lives in the periphery, at least in some sense. Like the aging high school football hero who wants to relive the glory days when he was at the center of things, we tend to pine for the limelight. But it makes more sense to learn contentment and how to serve God and people from whatever position we have in life, whether high or low. I certainly agree that not everyone can write a book and find an audience. And I think our best friends become those who allow us to name our passion out loud and have patience while we work it out. In a sense they are our audience. and that patience becomes reciprocal. When we listen, sometimes we are listened to.


      August 20, 2013 at 8:13 am

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