Getting Caught in Problems

A woman and a man are walking to the river.

The water comes into view and they see that there is something floating down the river. As they get closer, they realize that there are live babies floating down the river. And the babies keep coming.

The man charges into the river. But the woman turns and begins to walk quickly away.

The man, who is in the middle of the river with babies on his shoulders and back, yells to the woman, “What are you doing? We’ve got to save these babies.”

The woman turns and says, “That’s why I’m going to the top of the river to find out where the babies are coming from.”

If you and I were by that river, I’d likely be waist-deep in water with babies coming out of my pockets. And I’d likely be there for a long time. Because I got trapped in the urgent shortview, never to reach the transformative longview.

It is urgent: babies need to be saved. But urgent is a bottomless well. Babies will keep on coming because nothing’s been done about why they’re there in the first place. Triage happens in the river, transformation happens at the top of the river.

It’s a false choice to say we have to decide between the shortview and the longview. It’s not either/or.

The challenge, I think, is holding both simultaneously, charging into the water with an eye towards heading upriver.

Problems can highjack the whole landscape. But we can – and perhaps we must – move forward into a broader horizon.

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