At the beginning of 2018, the website Evangelicals for Social Action did a series of posts about an idea proposed by Brett McCracken for a Wisdom Pyramid. The idea is to create something like the USDA’s food pyramid for the soul. What things should we consume more of than others for our spiritual health? How do we find balance in a world with so many overwhelming choices? What does a spiritually healthy diet look like?
I’m not so sure the food pyramid is the best model for a map towards health since it has come under a lot of criticism since it was created and then after the even more confusing revamp in 2005 and again in 2011. Lifehacker and Huffpost have good breakdowns of the problems with the original model and the new images for USDA food consumption recommendations if you want to go deeper.
This model attempts to reduce something complex into an easily digestible graphic that you can simply look at and know exactly what you should eat or what “knowledge” or information you should consume. This reminds me of the song “New Law” from Derek Webb’s excellent album Mockingbird.
I understand the impulse. You want to quickly communicate something to a lot of people in a way that is simple and easy to digest so it will be effective in communicating and making a change. Unfortunately, it is also the same impulse Derek Webb describes when he sings,
Don’t teach me about politics and government
Just tell me who to vote for
Don’t teach me about truth and beauty
Just label my music […]
I don’t wanna know if the answers aren’t easy
So just bring it down from the mountain to me
As much as I think the intentions behind creating a food or wisdom pyramid are good, it seems to be a symptom of a deeper problem. We are disconnected from the thing we want to have more wisdom about. We want to know how to eat better, but we don’t know what food even is or where it comes from. We want to know how to navigate an overwhelming world of information, but we are disconnected from the sources of wisdom that can help us navigate those waters. Both of these pyramids are disembodied and therefore can never do what embodiment (incarnation) does.
I have several problems with the proposed Wisdom Pyramid that I would like to unpack.
- What is nature’s place and/or role in our lives and spiritual health?
- Why is a pyramid always a problem as a model?
- Where do the Bible and church fit into a healthy spirituality?
- What might a better model look like for how to engage a world that can be overwhelming? (Or how can we be led by the Spirit instead of creating a new law?)
Over the next four weeks I will try to answer each of these questions… or possibly raise further questions which then just becomes more fodder for more posts.