Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A great book

I have to say that I love David Gregory's book The Next Level. (His previous works, Dinner With A Perfect Stranger & A Day With A Perfect Stranger are great, too.) It is a story, really a parable, about a young man, Logan, who goes to work at a company called Universal Systems, Inc. His job there is to go from level to level (there are five) and determine what each level's greatest problem is. As he does so he discovers how differently people can interpret things, and how far off the truth people can be led because of little rumors. He first meets the director of the company, and reports directly to him as he diagnoses each level.
Each level seems to represent a belief system somewhere in the world.
On the first level, noone is really working for the company; they spend their time at work doing their own thing, working on things that have nothing to do with their job. I think this level represents those people in the world who don't subscribe to any particular belief set.
On level two, the employees have a very strict level of conduct, regulating even the kind of furniture polish used and the number of candies employees are allowed to have at their desks. Their adherence to these rules consumes much of their time and they do not do much work either. I think this represents those people who subscribe to a belief set but get so caught up in the don'ts in their religion that they forget to do the dos. An example is the Pharisees in the New Testament. Also there is an international division of this level that helps a great many people overseas.
On the third level, there are five major departments and eight minor ones. Logan meets with the managers of the five major departments and gets very varied answers from them about the whole purpose of the company and their work. I think this level represents the religions of the world other than Biblical Christianity and possibly Judaism, although the argument could be made that Level Two applies to the Jewish faith. Each department seems to symbolize Islam, New Age teaching, Buddhism, etc. Because they disagree on the overall purpose of the company, they are unable to work together toward a common goal, and also are working to please themselves, not the company.
On level four, the environment is nicer--they have coffee bars, nicer workstations, etc. They are aware of the owners of company and are trying to please them. Yet they are still working mostly to please themselves; i.e, they want to do what THEY want, not what their bosses want. I believe this represents a good portion of Christianity, who try to fit God's plans and desires into theirs, not the other way around.
As a bonus assignment Logan assesses Level Five, where people work exclusively with the Director, his father the Shareholder, and the Advocate. Those who work here basically go down to the other levels and help other people by doing menial tasks such as filing, cleaning etc. Here on this level Logan sees displayed the companies true product: self-giving love. It was first displayed by the Shareholder and Director, then they were joined by others in the company. Also mentioned is a sacrifice made by the Director: he was framed by a former employee for a crime he did not commit, yet he allowed himself to be found guilty to keep the company afloat.
I believe the characters of the Shareholder, Director and Advocate throughout the book represent the members of the Trinity. The one Logan interacts with most is the Director, who represents the person of Christ. The Advocate is the company's chief counsel, and fills a troubleshooting role, representing the Spirit. The Shareholder is the Director's father, and represents the Father. The real secret of level five is that the people who work there have learned to have the Shareholder and Director's outlook on things, and they work for their goals. This makes them the happiest and most profitable group in the company.
In the end Logan is offered a job on any level he wishes, including the fifth.
I think this is a wonderful parable and it really makes you think about how people in the world believe.

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