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  • Reverend James Squire

Metis The Hidden Dimension


Metis is a Greek word for intuition, wisdom, and a sense of what is going on around you that is not dependent on the words that you hear. It senses important aspects of relationships that aren’t necessarily picked up by others. Sometimes past experiences can create this sensitivity but often it is experienced as “just being there.”


When Metis is present, relationships or events surrounding us can work better than if it is absent. An example is when we are having an argument with another person and just somehow know when a subject can be brought up or not. It’s when timing of an exchange makes the exchange helpful or not. It is a form of wisdom that rests in both the psyche and the soul. You don’t talk about it or write about it when you are aware of it. It just is because it is sacred!


It is related to flow, a concept developed by a psychologist, Dr. Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced Sik Mik High), at the University of Chicago. I met him at a seminar at Princeton. He looked like Santa Claus. Flow is intuitive as well and is a form of Metis. It is when we are involved in something, for example, a class and time seems to take forever. An hour class feels like a day. But when flow is present an hour class can seem like a few minutes. I was recently involved in a memorial service that lasted for two and a half hours but seemed to pass as quickly as an hour and for the wife of the deceased it seemed like minutes as she hung on every word.


The more flow and Metis that we have in our lives, the richer they will become for us and for those around us.


Saying the right thing at the right time can make someone’s day. Saying the wrong thing at the wrong time can make for a hellish moment that can turn another person’s life into a hell. It was Jean Paul Sartre in his play, No Exit, who went to the heart of existentialism when he wrote that people become “heaven or hell for others.”


The secret to becoming heaven for another is to be aware of the Mentis or flow that we bring to others. You can’t teach it! But you can become more aware of when you are in it in a relationship so that Mentis and flow are more accessible to you.


This is what makes becoming a therapist or a person who has healing exchanges with others so difficult at times. It is the well-placed word or experience that can literally heal another. You know when it happens because you can see it or experience it, but you never talk about it. It is what a professor that I had at Duke referred to it as the tacit (hidden) dimension.


We also know the opposite of Metis which can also help us to gain wisdom. It is when we suffer from “foot in mouth disease” when we manage to say the worst thing possible that the person needs to hear. In theology we refer to Metis as grace, those moments when we expect to hear the worst and we are surprised to hear the best from another. Those moments are the heart of therapeutic relationships and when we realize that death is not the last word. We hear there is more now and then.


Metis can be where your faith is found roaming around as goodness. It is not a thought but a feeling that seems to always be there when you need it to lift another out of a place of darkness, to give hope to those without it, and to a word of truth that justice may be called forth, automatic in addressing an easy wrong to call forward a hard right. Faith focused can produce those moments long in time, Chronos, that seem as though they come from a place deep within us where God and humankind meet, Kairos. In the words of Frederick Buechner, author and theologian, it is “the place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”  Some call it, EASTER.

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