The Helpfulness of Blueprints

Posted by on Feb 22, 2017
The Helpfulness of Blueprints

Builders require blueprints. These carefully drawn diagrams guide decisions, energize work, inspire vision, and determine outcomes. All people need blueprints for their lives. But life-blueprints do more than guide. They interpret. We need mental frameworks through which to view, understand, and process the world around us.

Sounds rather philosophical, doesn’t it?

Here’s a less theoretical way to say it: We need a large story to help us read all the little stories around us.

Still kind of abstract, right?

Another try: We should think about life in the biggest possible ways in order to handle the little issues of life we face every day.

Not practical enough yet, huh?

Here’s a negative way to put it: If we don’t take the time to think about overarching issues, we’ll have trouble with the mundane, daily, frustrating, confusing, difficult issues.

I’m trying say this many different ways because I think it’s so important. Perhaps some illustrations will help.

Here are two conflicting blueprints about how to think about life. I’ve found them clearly expressed in Philip and Carol Zaleski’s excellent book The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of The Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams.

 Here’s one blueprint: C. S. Lewis’s writings “all touched on one great subject – the Fall of Man.” (p. 318) “God determined to rescue us from the ruin, first by giving us an innate knowledge of right and wrong; second, by sending the human race, in the form of myths and cults, ‘good dreams’ of a dying-and-rising god; third, by electing the children of Israel and spending ‘several centuries hammering into their heads the sort of God He was,’ and finally by visiting his sorry planet in the person of a Jewish man who said ‘the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips.’” (p. 304)

Here’s an alternative blueprint: “Enlightenment thinkers reinterpreted the Fall in secular terms, as the corruption, by social forces, of a human nature originally pure, or as a freely willed rejection of the universal moral law…Romantic thinkers succeeded for a brief time in describing the Fall as a glorious Promethean defiance or a necessary stage in the liberation of human consciousness…” (318)

Whichever blueprint you latch onto, you’ll see life in dramatically different ways. And you’ll seek out dramatically different solutions to problems. Some blueprints, while less popular than we might like, inspire hope and joy. Other blueprints, while gaining in popularity, ultimately end in despair. That’s why I need frequent breaks from reading the Enlightenment thinkers. It’s also why I never seem to tire of reading the Inklings.

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