OK – I borrowed the title of today’s post from a David Brooks column in today’s New York Times. But since he borrowed the phrase “edge of the inside” from Richard Rohr, I’m sure he won’t mind my using it here.
One of the core principles of Richard Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation is perspective, which he defines as meaning that “Practical truth is more likely found at the bottom and the edges than at the top or the center of most groups, institutions, and cultures.”
Rather simply insiders and outsiders (a view fostered by our tendency toward binary thinking), one can identify in any group, institution or culture also possesses people at the edge. As described by Brooks in his piece, these are people who are within an organization “but not subsumed by group think. They work at the boundaries, bridges and entranceways. Rohr adds that those at the edge of a group “are free from its central seductions, but also free to hear its core message in very new and creative ways.
Several thoughts strike me as I read this. First, all institutions need people at the edges. Without them it is not only very difficult to build bridges with other groups, but virtually impossible for an institution to grow.
Second, people at the edges run the risk of being criticized by both those insiders at the center of an institution and by those outside it. By definition, anyone who doesn’t fit cleanly into one category or another runs the risk of vilification.
Third, notwithstanding the second point, there are some of us who are most comfortable living at the edge of inside. I have a lot of thoughts about this third, but none formulated enough to share here. But you might find it interesting to look at where you find yourself in the institutions and groups to which you belong.