This post is from the defunct blog “Dying Church”
I picked up an interesting book over the weekend called Orbiting the Giant Hairball. The author, Gordon MacKenzie, worked for Hallmark for 30 years. The hairball is a mildly disgusting term that represents what institutions (like Hallmark) become:
Well, two hairs unite. Then they're joined by another. And another. And another. Before long, where there was once nothing, this tangled, impenetrable mass has begun to form.
The result is that the hairball becomes huge, with an equally huge gravitational pull (a hairball with a gravitational pull? don't think about it for too long) that sucks "everything into its mass" and establishes guidelines, techniques, methodologies, systems, and equations. What once started as fluid and creative becomes rigid and inflexible. A hairball is a "tangled, impenetrable mess of rules and systems, based on what worked in the past and which can lead to mediocrity in the present." You can leave the hairball altogether. You can get sucked into the hairball. Or there's a third option – you can orbit the giant hairball:
Orbiting is responsible creativity: vigorously exploring and operating beyond the Hairball of the corporate mind set, beyond "accepted models, patterns, and standards" – all the while remaining connected to the spirit of the corporate mission. To find Orbit around a corporate Hairball is to find a place of balance where you can benefit from the physical, intellectual and philosophical resources of the organization without becoming entombed in the bureaucracy of the institution.
You probably see where I'm going with this. You can leave the established or institutional church, because you're frustrated with its rigidness and inflexibility. You can get sucked in to its gravity and become absorbed with its maintenance and standards. Or you can orbit the established church: connected to its mission, benefiting from its resources, but free of the bureaucracy of the institution. I never thought I'd find a metaphor for what I'm trying to do in a hairball, but this metaphor fits well. Orbit on.