A Cat and a Comma

Question: What’s the difference between a cat and a comma?

Answer: A cat has its claws at the end of its paws and a comma is the pause at the end of a clause.

This unique wordplay is part of a creative thinking exercise led by Roger von Oech, author of A Whack on the Side of the Head. The “Whack” book as I refer to it is an annual read that prompts me to think and plan in ways that aren’t familiar, routine or comfortable. It, also, prompts, me, to, rethink, my, fondness, for, the, comma.

Edward De Bono wrote a similar book titled Lateral Thinking. In it he encourages people to take a step beyond the conventional way things tend to be viewed and embrace insights gained through unique approaches. De Bono believes discontinuity of thought trumps the very sequential continuity habits we tend to practice. What? Yes, the Dude is deep. He holds three doctorates and was a Rhodes Scholar so it’s obvious he thinks on a different plain than the rest of us. So let’s reduce his theory to a concept:

Why are we Baptist?

Continuity/Vertical Thinking Answer: My family has always been Baptist.

Discontinuity/Lateral Thinking/”Whacked on the Side of the Head” Answer: Baptists are free to interpret scripture as they choose and enjoy local church autonomy.

In Lateral Thinking, and in von Oech’s “Whacked” approach, there are no just because answers. Answers and insights are gained through a process of focused attention and old fashioned effort. Imagine if we all chose to embrace scripture and theological study as lateral thinkers? If we do (and I hope we will) we would be embarking upon a path toward understanding the Bible in ways that will allow it to come alive. We will become involved in approaching scripture in contextual ways. We will want to know who wrote a specific letter, when it was written, to whom was it written and what the world was like when it was penned. Proper context cannot be overstated in the pursuit of honest scripture study.

If you think this is a “whacked” way to approach our next level of discipleship and Biblical study you’d be correct. To step “out of the box” and go as far as getting rid of the box entirely is very much “whacked.” That admitted, in the inverse, counter-intuitive world of lateral thinking…whacked is good, lateral leads up and our spiritual progress might hinge on a new way of thinking.
I have but one vote, but I vote for “whacked.”

Michael McCullar
Formations Pastor
Johns Creek Baptist Church

3 Comments. Leave new

  • Michael, thanks for “A Cat and a Comma”, I’m Whacked too! I think God made us all to be free thinkers and let us “mess up” or “build ourselves up”, because that’s what we call free will. Thanks for what you do for our Tuesday Bible Group!

  • As a kid about 7 or 8 years old, a 12 inch block of wood from the end of a 4″x4″ post was dropped on my head from 5 feet above me. I still have a crease in my skull. I was whacked at a very young age. That whack was a blessing because I have always been an “individual thinker”. I hoe my on row! I march to the beat of a different drummer! I don’t follow the crowd! And so on and so on.
    A good whack keeps your mind alert and looking for new and better ways to understand and grow!
    I vote for “wacked”!

  • marylouparrish
    October 29, 2013 7:12 am

    YES! The grown up CHURCH is already primed to be ” whacked with conceptual
    exploration” of what we have been coming toward since Childhood within the
    Baptist Church Body of BELIEVERS IN JESUS. You are the right person to
    start whacking us+ Thank you for good book suggestions which enhance and encourage deeper thinking and the call to ” come up higher” in our prayer experience with Christ. Why is “spiritual discernment” essential to Christ’s developing Hope in Us as His own People through each new generation? ml


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