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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Shrink to Fit Spirituality

It's a selection on your printer software that you probably have never used. It allows you to shrink a
document or a picture so that it will fit on a conventional sheet of paper. Sometimes it is a huge help. Maybe you have an image that is just slightly larger than a sheet of printer paper but don't have access to larger paper. Shrink to fit is just what you need. Of course, there are limits to its usefulness. Shrinking text too much limits its legibility, and shrinking an image too much changes its character. There is a reason I have a full sized 16x20 portrait of myself over our bed rather than a 4x6 snapshot, after all.

Even though most of us probably haven't had to use that feature on our computer very often, there are two very important areas of life where the concept comes up and in which we have two quite different reactions. One is spirituality, the other is problems solving and coping skills.

When it comes to spirituality, we love to shrink to fit - and our spiritual institutions, for the most part, encourage that perspective. They define God, define the holy, draw a circle around the infinite, excise all mystery by attempting to reduce it to doctrine and dogma, and include and exclude on the basis of whether or not that person's experience of the transcendent fits into their neat little boxes. In recent years the majority of people have discovered that shrink to fit spirituality leaves them with little more than a tight pair of underpants, which may seem at first glance to be quite attractive but in the end leave us with little feeling in our legs. The God proposed is too small, and no longer inspires because a small God is easily overwhelmed. We need to be willing to admit we don't know, that life is a journey in need of traveling, not overcoming. It isn't at all tidy, but it is the truth of what we have.

On the other hand, when it comes to coping skills and problem solving it seems we are loathe to shrink to fit. We look at the most complex issues of our lives, issues that took years to develop, and wonder why we can't address them in five minutes or less. Nobody asks why a one thousand piece jigsaw puzzle takes more than five minutes to put together, but we wonder why a ten-thousand piece problem from lived experience can't be solved overnight! Here is where we need to break things apart into a manageable size, addressing pieces of the challenge as we move to completing the task in front of us.

We need to use the shrink to print function judiciously. When we feel shrinking the issue distorts it, we need to allow it to remain full sized. When an issue is overwhelming at full size, we need to do some reduction so that we can proceed, adding more pieces as we are able. It isn't really difficult, but it can be quite challenging - but then, everything worthwhile is challenging.

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