In the Soup II – Constitutional Crisis


A constitutional crisis, loosely defined, occurs when the rules of an organization don’t adequately cover the situation at hand.

I’m in a men’s group that’s been meeting for years, and we have very few rules. In particular we have no rules at all concerning the expulsion of a member. Since this issue has never arisen we’ve had no problem, but if it should arise we’d have nothing to rely on but everyone’s good will … a potential constitutional crisis.

Some years ago I was working in a business office, and a co-worker decided to have a sex change operation. Bill walked out of the office one day, a man, and reappeared a couple of weeks later as Billi, a woman. This caused a mini crisis.

No one knew how to talk to or talk about Billi. The pronouns (he/she) were tricky. What about Billi’s family? What about the weirdness of it all? Jokes were told, gossip was rampant, and underneath it everyone was nervous. We were trying to feel each other out in a process of developing the new rules needed to cover the new reality.

That’s how it is in the soup. Our day-to-day lives occur within the framework of some flimsy unspoken “rules” and customs. We may feel somewhat comfortable, but this current framework is always subject to being exposed as arbitrary and inadequate. When the unusual happens we go into crisis mode and scurry to find a new level in the soup that can accommodate the new parameters. Deeply aware that we’re skating on thin ice, we are always scared.

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