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Messy Noetic Spaces

“The metaphor for love is Arishi*”. I heard this beautiful line in my leadership masters class recently, and it resonated deeply. Arishi means, ‘to speak mutually’. When I reflect on the meaning of Arishi, speaking mutually, its meaning extends beyond dialogue. In a conversation, the assumption and hope are to share thoughts and be heard and perhaps even be respected. To speak mutually is to enter the conversation on the premise of a joint agreement in each other’s value. 

What then do we do with curiosity? 

When we value someone, we don’t just accept them, we love them. We love them as they are. In their blackness, queerness, sadness, hopelessness; whatever. If we can do this or at least try to, the resulting dialogue is the intersection of curiosity and a humble posture of listening. The type of listening that is rooted in love. Power in Arishi is shared and a humble practice of assumed implicit value in people that one is constantly curious about. What then do we do with curiosity? 

Embrace the noetic space. My professor explained the concept of the noetic space as an invisible space where a new way of being can emerge. He affectionately and hilariously likened the kitchen to being a noetic space where you may start out making carrot muffins but end up with carrot soup. I understood this type of space as being one where people are open to and excited about what they don’t know is going to happen as they speak mutually. You could say that it's being open to the Spirit moving us. But that could get messy. 

Church is messy.

Like church. Church is messy. We have confessionals, history, classes, synod, catechism and oh, so many teachings. It’s ridiculous to think we can all speak mutually in between all these layers. Maybe hoping for and trying to create noetic spaces and practicing Arishi in them is too demanding. 

Perhaps speaking mutually means analyzing who’s in charge of the conversations. The construct of power is complex. Becoming aware of how much or little of it we have is critical. We can’t have dialogic spaces with power imbalances. In order to co-construct, we have to first disrupt and interrupt the dominant voices. I think that’s the beginning of creating a noetic space in the church and being open to Arishi in the messiness.

 I’ll end with a rhyme I recently wrote:

“Fight the Power”, Public Enemy preached 

Critical consciousness is what we need 


The certainty. 



*Hardman, Martha J. (1996) The Sexist Circuits of English. The Humanist (March/April):25–32.

Photo provided by the author.

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