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The Western Domino Effect

A staff member told me about a colleague who was running a special ad hoc lab course for our extension services. This instructor is from a very different culture, and my staff member was commenting about how that influenced her approach to unforeseen difficulties. She would just roll with them like it was no big deal and even normal.

The staff member and I were laughing about how many Americans in the same situation, ourselves included, would get frustrated over such hassles. It is surprising to see how much we expect our lives to run according to plan, like clockwork. It is simply ingrained in us that if we prepare properly, our plans will come to fruition, in spite of all of the evidence to the contrary in real life.

We are so used to our technological marvels working to give us control of our environments that we expect to have control in most or all areas. We are caught off guard and even feel personally insulted when gaps appear in our plans. My staff member quipped that it is as if we have a giant set of dominoes set up to fall and one suddenly turns out to be spaced just a little too far away from the next, and we ‘know’ we’ve set them properly.

It is astounding how deeply many of us believe this throughout Western civilization, academicians in particular. We tend to have the attitude that if it works on paper, then, by George, it will work in the real world. When it doesn’t, we are convinced the problem is in the implementation, not in the plan. The domino has been placed improperly, not that the design is untenable.

We have achieved amazing progress by our focus on productivity and efficiency, yet many of us take it too far, and over apply it. My folks have a saying, “when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

Taken too far, this tendency is a form of self-idolization. We are in control. Another word for control is sovereignty. God consistently warns us that is His realm, not ours. Chaos is a divine slap on the wrist to remind us of our humility and smallness. Its goal is to turn our attention to our ultimate dependence on God to see us through.


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