KOH2RVA: Day 200

mini worldMy friend and colleague Ralph Starling recently shared this brief article by Seth Godin about paracosms.  What’s a paracosm?  Literally it means “a world alongside,” but listen to how Godin describes it:

A paracosm is an ornate, richly detailed imaginary world. Whether you’re a three-year old with imaginary playmates, or a passionate inventor imagining how your insight will change just about everything, a paracosm gives you the opportunity to hypothesize, to try out big ideas and see where they take you.

[Let me interrupt long enough to say that the Kingdom of Heaven, as Jesus talked about it, sounds like a paracosm].

Managers at established organizations have a very hard time with this. Take book publishing as an example. Ten or fifteen years ago, I’d sit with publishing chiefs and say, “let’s imagine how the world looks when there are no mass market books published on paper…” Before we could get any further, they’d stop the exercise. “It’s impossible to imagine that. Paper is magical. Are you saying you don’t believe in books?” (I heard variations on this from people as recently as a year ago.)

[Let me interrupt again to say that the way the scribes and Pharisees responded to Jesus’ talk about the Kingdom of Heaven sounds like that].

The emotional response is easy to understand. If one of the core principles of your business needs to be abandoned in order to act out the paracosm, it feels disloyal to even utter it. Sort of like asking your spouse if he’s going to remarry after you die…

And yet.

The most effective, powerful way to envision the future is to envision it, all of it, including a future that doesn’t include your sacred cows. Only then can you try it on for size, imagine what the forces at work might be and then work to either prevent (or even better, improve on) that future and your role in it.

It’s not disloyal to imagine a future that doesn’t include your founding precepts. It’s disloyal not to.

If that’s true, do we need to spend some time today imagining a future that doesn’t include the church as we know it, but rather the kingdom as God knows it?  And if so, what would that future look like?  According to Seth Godin, “A paracosm gives you the opportunity to hypothesize, to try out big ideas and see where they will take you.”

Go ahead. Knock yourself out.

3 thoughts on “KOH2RVA: Day 200

  1. My definition of the church is not a structured organization or a building located at the intersection of 2 streets. ‘My church’ is a group of people whose spirits already know a little about God and the Kingdom, but who want to both know more and to share with others what they already know. A future in God’s kingdom includes members whose spirits already have and incorporate the important things in God’s kingdom, this knowledge. A future already possessing this knowledge wouldn’t be threatend by the omission of an organization whose main purpose is to teach and illustrate this. A future like this would either include (1) ‘beings’ who do not have bodies with needs or spirits lacking important ‘knowledge’, or (2) beings who are not threatened by sharing what they do have and are not threatened by admitting what they don’t have and need. Beings who do not need titles or wealth in order to consider themselves beings of worth and are willing to take chances, talking about things they aren’t sure of, or who are willing to share the little that they have, knowing that there won’t always be appreciation, beings who are willing to put this into action with the knowledge that criticism will come, but that it’s never to late to BEGIN becoming what you want to be and what you want your world to be.

  2. C. S. Lewis provides a wonderful example of a Christian paracosm in his Chronicles of Narnie. He referred to the Chronicles as a ‘supposal’–“Suppose God created a world of animals and He chose to reveal Himself as a lion. What would that world be like?”

    “I am in your world.’ said Aslan. ‘But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”

    If you have never visited Narnia, you have not lived!!

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