>>Praxis is not, in fact, a new word. It comes from Medieval Latin, and originally from Greek. Outside the etymology of the word, it just sounds cool, right? Not the kind of cool that you’d name your car or your dog, but more the kind of cool that you’d name a blog…maybe.
There’s a lot of loaded meaning in praxis. It’s been around for a while, and it’s been associated with the movement of God before as well. Even though, I don’t mean to completely divorce it from that aspect, I am taking some license and using it more in its ancient connotation. Praxis basically means the practice of a theory, lesson, or skill. I like to think of it as the embodiment of information. Praxis is a word that represents how something as ephemeral and conceptual as informational translates into reality. More specifically in my context, it’s the resulting action of the machine built by our thoughts, biases, beliefs, and heredity. It is the observable action that shows itself in the repetition and daily practice of living life. Wait, maybe I’d better read that again!
>>the praxis engine
In one aspect, Praxis is the expression of true belief. Imagine your life as a machine – some incredibly complex construct built of individual parts. Each part represents an experience, or inclination, or fear, or hope, or motivation. All of these parts interact with one another and connect in ways that impact the others. All these construct the machinery of self. We’re aware of some of them, but they all have an effect. As we crank it up each morning when we awaken – the praxis of this life motor is revealed in our actions, habits, and interactions throughout the day. This complex internal machinery results in some expression of action or movement. That expression of our internal life machinery is our Praxis.
At its heart, Praxis is a natural expression of what exists, as opposed to a more artificial, forced expression. Just like any machine’s natural action can be countered with enough effort, a Praxis can be overcome with enough effort.
Imagine a 67 Pontiac GTO. The sole purpose of that machine is to get the pedal to the floor and awaken all 368 of the horses under the hood in order to move forward faster! But even the 438 ft·lb force of that engine can be countered with enough chains holding it to a bridge pylon or a battleship or something. The engine stil roars, and the tires spin, but the Praxis of forward movement is countered.
Imagine a more personal example. My Praxis should be to encourage and build up my wife on a daily basis – for her good, for my own good, and for the sake of God’s kingdom. I’ve just stated three good reasons to promote this idea, and there are a hundred more. I can have a perfectly rational understanding of all those reasons, yet if I frequently speak harshly to her, or say things that tear her down, or ignore her needs and desires – my Praxis is something different. Despite all my flawless reasoning and understanding of what I should do, the praxis of my life produces something different.
>>clarity changes everything
Imagine that my life engine is cluttered with so many conflicting experiences, motivations, misunderstanding, and fears that there appears to be no action at all. The motive forces of my life pull me in conflicting directions that cancel out and I become paralyzed, or it’s simply so complex that the simplest actions are predicated on complex mechanisms like a Rube Goldberg Machine (you should watch this YouTube video if you haven’t seen it). These Praxes show massive activity but little end result.
The organization that I work with, Auxano has a mantra, “Clarity isn’t everything, but it changes everything.” And when it comes to Praxis, that must be the starting point. What are you here to do? There are 4 other questions that must follow that one, but for the sake of simplicity I’ll hold them for another conversation. If I am not stunningly clear about my purpose, how can I even begin to evaluate the effectiveness of my life and ministry?
So my goal as an individual (and for this blog) is to learn to adopt healthy, God-designed structures in my life that result in a Praxis that equals effectual success – in all the broad context of that word (healthy spiritual, physical, intellectual, and relational movement). I will posit that to gain a different result, different thinking is needed – and thus again the reason for this blog. I want to share what I have gained through error and good teaching, and learn from you in the same context.
Do you share the same hunger for carnivorous learning? Leave your comments in the section below – and answer the following question for yourself:
What are three significant experiences in my life that I see forming my Praxis?
Next up: >>THE CLARITY OF A SINGULARITY
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Your articles are always awesome, and the design of your website helps to keep it beautiful. How do you understand so much about how people thinks?
I appreciate your encouragement. I think most of what I know about people is simply by listening closely for many years – and trying to put myself in their shoes. I think there are a lot of common constants in how we think, and that many of us are broken in similar ways. Sometimes I meet someone that I just have no idea about, but mostly people want to be understood. Our part is to listen with an open heart, and think carefully.