Signals of Transcendence
MAY 6, 2023
by Os Guinness
The question to ask is how we have each responded to signals—especially when the censors and the scoffers form so loud a chorus and a cordon around us. What do such signals mean? Are they only a will-o’-the- wisp, leading honest seekers astray into the darkness and the bogs of illusion? Are they only a false dawn that ushers in a day no different and no better than today? Or are they signals pointing to solutions that are solid and to satisfactions that are a delight? What is the truth to which the signals point? Does the search show that there is nothing more to life than our caves and our windowless worlds? Or do the signals, and the stories of those who followed them, point the way to the promise and fulfillment of the something more that encourages us to surpass ourselves and make life more richly satisfying than it is now?
The answer is not for me to spell out here. It is for each reader to decide for herself or himself through search and discovery. Without question, we all hear at times such signals. But again, the question is what we do with them—our responsibility in responding to them. Are we too shy, too embarrassed to even consider them as signals, to share our experiences with others, and to follow the thrusting logic of their questions, wherever they lead and whatever the cost? Are we afraid of reaching conclusions that might be dismissed as odd, deluded, or out of line with fashionable opinion in our day? In the world of the blind, the one-eyed person always runs the risk of being scoffed at as an idiot.
We live in an age in which the overwhelming majority of people appear to be comfortable with their myopia. They are satisfied with the comforts and conveniences of the cave and the windowless world. Our main challenge is to prompt people to think and care sufficiently to begin to ask questions. In each of the stories shared here, the people who followed the signals would all say they that their discoveries outshone the importance of the signals by far. Once they had arrived, who cared about the signals? Yet without the signals, they would not have arrived, and they might never have set off on the search. Each signal, then, is small and insignificant in itself, yet titanic in its significance for the whole of life.
In the same way, we can say with certainty that those who close their ears to such signals, for whatever reason, are certain to be losers. In terms of Plato’s parable, the closed-minded condemn themselves to serve out their life sentences in their various caves and cells, with no chance of discovering whether the light and freedom of the sun outside are real. Lacking all curiosity, they are content to live in the darkness and never know the truth. But it is time for the signals and the stories to speak for themselves and to let each of us decide for ourselves. There are always choices and consequences in life, and the responsibility to decide them and live with them is always ours.
One truth, however, runs like a thread through the stories. Each signal of transcendence sounds out its own special call. No signal is a signal for everyone to hear, so one person’s signal is another person’s silence. Be ready, then, for the call that will come to you in your life. Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear.
Taken from Signals of Transcendence by Os Guinness. ©2023 by Os Guinness. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press. www.ivpress.com.