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Critical remarks to my methods

Saturday, June 18, 2022 (06:41)

I received (at least) two critical remarks to my approach.

It would have been positive and “synodal” to send concrete and constructive change requests to the internal report, not just general considerations about its quality or its merits.

Yes, that’s true. I didn’t have the energy. For several reasons. When a text of 10 pages seems “utterly wrong”, it is difficult to start working on it. I felt frustrated because I just had finished three months of doing the same with three theologians, and this text was starting again from zero. Formulating change requests would have meant to rewrite large parts of the text. Writing is a frustrating job when you believe that it won’t be taken into account. I believed this because my previous experiences with the sinoditiim had taught me that they usually don’t listen to me. Please also consider that I received that text on 2022-05-27, one day after I had arrived in Belgium. That trip to Belgium was my first after three years. I knew that such a trip causes me to have lots of things to care about. I had scheduled it according to the sinoditiim’s original timeline, which was to have finished our synthesis for end of April. When the team decided (on 2022-04-06) to extend their timeline until mid of June, I tried to explain them that the new timeline was a problem for me, but they just concluded that my being in Belgium is no problem since we have Internet.

It is not about writing your own opinion, but to synthesize the opinions expressed by the participants.

It is indeed possible that the report produced by the sinoditiim has been done according to the “encyclopedic rule”, as given to Wikipedians when they edit an article: “articles should never include the opinions of Wikipedians themselves, even if you are an expert who has read any number of primary, secondary, or tertiary sources. Your opinions and interpretations do not belong in an article.” (Primary, secondary, and tertiary sources). In other words, it is possible that our synthesis indeed does not contain any “primary” creative work and is “just a rearranged copy-and-paste” of formulations found in the different reports.

But my understanding of “synthesis” is different. As a software analyst my job is to formulate the needs of a customer even when they are unable to formulate them in a clear language. I did what I am used to do: I tried to listen to lots of people and to “keep their ideas in my heart”. Then (often during a mass or common prayer, or in the morning after waking up), I felt some idea about how to formulate what they told me. I then wrote a text and asked those people: “Does this reflect what you want to say?” Sometimes they answered “Yes, that’s it!” and we both were happy. And sometimes they answered “No, I said something else!” and sometimes even felt offended. But even in such “negative” cases I continued to wonder “What then is he trying to say?” I call this approach “creative” and “iterative”.

  • “Creative” because it allows new formulations to enter our final result (it “leaves a door open for the Holy Spirit to act”).

  • And “iterative” because it proceeds step by step, leaving at each step the possibility to “repent” and change the direction.

This approach is not “mine”. It is inspired by methods used in free software development (Rapid prototyping, Release early, release often <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Release_early,_release_often>, Agile software development, …)

I believe that the “encyclopedic” approach used by the team is actually much more “egoistic” (i.e. reflects only some part of the expressed opinions) because we didn’t exchange about the result. I have the feeling that the result filters out some important opinions. I speak now notably of the opinions expressed in the inter-confessional report, which are left out in a way that was labelled “scandalous” by one friend.

Formulating new ideas does not mean that you are expressing “your” opinion. Avoiding to formulate new ideas does not protect you from expressing only “your” opinion.