I recently read a new book by Esther Meek titled A Little Manual for Knowing,
Dr. Meek teaches philosophy at Geneva College and has written three books about the philosophy of Michael Polanyi. Polanyi was born in Hungary in 1891, fled Nazi Germany in 1936 and worked as a research chemist in England. He left behind his research lab to write a groundbreaking book on epistemology--that branch of philosophy dealing with “how do we know” questions (Personal Knowledge, 1958).
One of Polanyi’s insights has to do with the concept of indwelling. Here is Esther Meek on “indwelling.”
“Indwelling involves empathetically putting yourself inside the thing you want to know, and taking it inside you. Indwelling is a strategy to invite the real. Indwelling is what it looks like to give oneself in love in an effort to know. It is part of what welcome looks like, what trust looks like, and caring attentiveness. And what indwelling looks like is this: relying on clues “subsidiarily” to shape a complex focal pattern.”
This sounds to me what missionaries try to do when they live and work cross-culturally. Missionaries are guests, strangers, ambassadors, servants, friends, witnesses--but they always have to live and love on someone else’s terms. Polanyi refers to “indwelling” in terms of John’s gospel and the example of Jesus. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
Christian witness calls us to indwell our neighborhoods, our cultures, our schools and our workplaces. There we give ourselves in love, attentiveness and hospitality and give shape to patterns of living. Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship salutes the people God sends to dwell in unreached cultures on the mission frontier. Sometimes we even find other cultures on our doorstep as we meet immigrants and international students. The work of indwelling our contexts is challenging and exciting. We all rely on clues that are subsidiary (little, unnoticed, secondary) to help us see people(s) as God sees them. God calls us to show love by listening, learning and by paying attention. We thank God for the indwelling Spirit who enables us to show and tell Good News--to overflow with the signs and words of Good News.
Grace and Peace,
Richard L. HaneyExecutive Director