“Do I have to? Yes, I know that the Israelites are suffering under Pharaoh, but Aaron’s a much better speaker than I am. Much more persuasive. Send him. I’m not eloquent. I stumble over my words. Pharaoh won’t listen to me.”
It was a pretty big ask, as they say, when God told Moses he wanted him to go to Egypt, to speak to the Pharoah and bring the enslaved Israelites to safety. He was minding his father-in-law’s sheep and his own business when the angel of the Lord appeared in the burning bush. He had a nice life. He didn’t want the responsibility. It was all too big an effort. And a bit scary. He did, of course, go in the end, uprooting his family and setting out on a tough adventure. He accepted the situation and the challenge.
Moses moved from a “yes….but” position to a “yes….and” position. The word “but” cancels out everything that has gone before. “And” acknowledges the situation and takes it forward. When actors improvise a scene or a piece of comedy, they have to adopt a “yes…and” stance in response to each other, or things collapse. They first have to accept what the other person says and does and then they can decide their response.
I was thinking about this in relation to our reactions to climate change after Saturday’s Lent Breakfast. For me, Grahame Buss, a former Principal Scientist at Shell and now an activist with Extinction Rebellion, set out the situation facing the world quietly, powerfully and convincingly. I think that most of us present, if not all of us, would have been saying “yes” to what he said. But did we all follow it with “and”, or is it too challenging and inconvenient?