The Hopeful Midwife, pt 2

In the first note of this series, I tried my best to describe two ways of interpreting the world. While through the comments of that note many of us have more or less "tipped our hand" as to which side we feel more comfortable with, the fact of the matter is that in terms of hard, irrefutable evidence, none of us can camp out on either side of the fence with any authority. The existence of God and the Flying Spaghetti Monster are equally proven/disproven.

Of all the stories I have encountered, none is more relevant to being a midwife than the story of the blind men and an elephant. From Wikipedia (

"In various versions of the tale, a group of blind men (or men in the dark) touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one touches a different part, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk. They then compare notes on what they felt, and learn they are in complete disagreement. The story is used to indicate that reality may be viewed differently depending upon one's perspective, suggesting that what seems an absolute truth may be relative due to the deceptive nature of half-truths."

As a Westerner, I read that story looking for a "moral," for a "take-home message." For me, the message is that the blind men in that room have one of two choices. They can ignore, hate, or commit violence; or they can do their best to express what they've encountered, and listen to the others in the room with empathy and openness. Only the second avenue leads to full(er) knowledge of the elephant.

Further complicating the matter, however, is that in our situation, several of the men in the room feel as though the elephant has reached its trunk around and spoken directly (and exclusively) into their ears, granting them special revelation. For them, every odor, every sound the elephant makes fits neatly into their revelation, vindicating their belief. They do not take this privilege lightly, and through self-denial and love, they express their revelation in the best way they know how.

The act of expressing special revelation is mission work. I myself was a member of a fledgling mission team (that has now finally made it to the field), and though I am no longer a field worker, my sympathies and beliefs lie with them. In other words, by describing and promoting midwivery, I'm not trying to discount or disparage mission work. The two, however, are very distinct enterprises.

For the sake of dialogue, midwivery entails setting aside the implications of direct revelation. Among midwives, there are no privileged perspectives. The purpose (and hope) of this dialogue is to learn more about the elephant through the senses of other blind men.

In my next note I'll be looking at the Biblical book of Job. To load your gun a little, I wanted to share bits of Carl Jung's reading of this text:

"I shall not give a cool and carefully considered exegesis that tries to be fair to every detail, but a purely subjective reaction. In this way I hope to act as a voice for many who feel the same way as I do, and to give expression to the shattering emotion which the unvarnished spectacle of divine savagery and ruthlessness produces in us... [I am referring to the ] double-faced behaviour of which [God] had already given proof in the Garden of Eden, when he pointed out the tree to the First Parents and at the same time forbade them to eat of it… Without further ado Job is robbed of his herds, his servants are slaughtered, his sons and daughters are killed by a whirlwind, and he himself is smitten with sickness and brought to the brink of the grave… His justified complaint finds no hearing with the judge who is so much praised for his justice… Instead, he comes riding along on the tempest of his almightiness and thunders reproaches at the half-crushed human worm (Job 38:2): Who is this that darkens counsel / by his words without insight? In view of the subsequent words of Yahweh, one must really ask oneself: Who is darkening what counsel? The only dark thing here is how Yahweh ever came to make a bet with Satan."

Have you read the book of Job? What did you think?