There are no ugly cats!

Not all of my teaching takes place in a formal classroom.  One of the delights of my job is to help create leadership learning experiences for students that take place outside of the classroom.  This past weekend, 60+ students came together at Scottsville Retreat Center for Ignite, our student leadership retreat.

As we plan Ignite, we try to offer learning experiences around 3 different areas: developing in our faith as leaders, practical leadership skills, and foundational assumptions about leadership. So, for instance, this year we considered questions related to living out our calling and preparing spiritually for the tough days in leadership. And this year, for the first time, we explicitly discussed our foundational assumptions about leadership.

A couple of years ago, we sat down and wrote out 10 foundational assumptions about leadership which would guide the leadership development program at ETBU.  When I teach in class, when I select a textbook, when I consider bringing in speakers, I think about these 10 foundational assumptions.

We all have foundational assumptions don’t we?  These are the things we really believe, deep down, and that shape the decisions we make daily.

This year, we asked Dr. Dub to address several of our foundational assumptions during our Campfire & S’mores time at Ignite.  And so, there gathered around the fire, we talked about 3 of those assumptions:

  • Leadership Can Be Learned
  • Leadership is Action, Not Position
  • And, “There are No Ugly Cats!”
Photo Credit: asgw via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: asgw via Compfight cc

Well, that’s not our actual assumption, but I will forever hold the story of Dr. Dub’s grandmother telling him there are no ugly cats as a reminder of one of those deep truths of leadership.  Dr. Dub told the story about a cat of questionable cuteness that wandered past his grandma’s porch one day.  When he commented on its lack of attractive qualities (that is, he called it ugly), her response was, “There are no ugly cats!”

And the truth is, in leadership, “there are no ugly cats.” (Tweet This)  Difficult ones, yes.  Opinionated ones, absolutely. Cats of different colors, stripes, spots, and attitudes, no doubt.  But there are no ugly cats. And when I take the time to sit back and really listen to the differences of opinion and different personalities of all the individuals I’ve had a chance to work with or even lead, I am amazed at the beauty of the differences that God creates in human beings. And they all have the opportunity to bring something to the table.  Each person has something to offer, so long as I don’t deny them that opportunity by believing they are too ugly (or uneducated, or goofy, or traditional, or creative, etc).

Of course, in leadership it’s easier to lead people who all think like you do, work like you do, see things like you do.  But, in the end, are you even leading these people? Or would you all have gone in the same direction anyway?

Yes, my life would be easier if everyone always saw things my way.  But, because I really do believe that there are no ugly cats, I will choose to actively include people in the decision-making process who are quite different from me.  So, thanks Dr. Dub for that reminder…and the mental image to keep it fresh in my mind.

-ep

Cognitive Dissonance and Soap

Hey, buddy… try this!

Photo Credit: Davi Ozolin via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Davi Ozolin via Compfight cc

It’ll make you feel good! Real good!

You know you want this!

TRY THIS NOW!!

If a drug pusher or… a pimp… accosted you this way–as you strolled carelessly down the street. Maybe got uncomfortably close? Maybe yelled in your face? Maybe blocked your way?

Would you feel put upon? Call the police?

Would it ruin your otherwise perfect morning and disrupt the serenity of your innocent thoughts on your tree-lined, routine jaunt to Starbucks?

How dare someone!! That would be intolerable! Right?

Then why then do we tolerate such boorish behavior from advertisers who do the same things to us 24/7 on TV sets that we purchase and via cable programming we’re paying for? In short, why do we let advertisers invade our private property and infiltrate our personal space and time?

But seriously…

Am I suggesting that broadcast advertisers are basically pimps and drug pushers? No!

They’re worse. They’re much more influential. Much more pernicious. And despite a few regulations from the FTC, they are largely unrestricted. Drug dealers would like to have it so good!

Most people are blissfully unaware of how many “free choices” they think they are making in everyday life are really the end result of carefully crafted schemes launched on Madison Avenue (or some avenue). And much of the success of advertising is due to the effect of  cognitive dissonance, in which one’s mind is in a state of tension due to an unresolved dilemma. The culprit usually involves a choice which must be made, but there are competing advantages and disadvantages for making each choice. Thus, one experiences tension and stress until the issue is resolved. If the choice and, thus, the cognitive dilemma, is great enough, one may even wrestle with her conscience for some time–and with considerable angst–before deciding what to do.

What does any of this have to do with advertisers?

They create cognitive dissonance in people on purpose (see McLeod, 2008)! Estimates vary greatly, but the range of possible exposures to marketing messages is somewhere between 3,000 and 20,000 per day per consumer. Yes! Per day! Potential consumers are bombarded with dissonance-inducing solicitations designed to cause them to re-evaluate how comfortable they are with their status quo.

Don’t you know you could do so much better than… that?

Photo Credit: Professor Bop via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Professor Bop via Compfight cc

Part One of the sinister plan is to convince people that whatever product or service they’re using could be better… no, should be better! Right now!
Part Two of the sinister plan is to create the appearance of distinction between mostly similar items.
Part Three of the sinister plan is to play up trivial differences as being significant, very significant.

Using this approach, advertisers have convinced us to change out our perfectly good laundry detergent for soap with a more clever name. We have tossed out delicious potato chips for insane flavors, and we have ditched our insurance providers for products sold by lizards and ducks. Yes, you did! Fess up! 

Larry the Cable Guy, spokesman for Prilosec OTC, in one ad quipped humorously that, in this country, “We don’t just make things you want…We make things you didn’t even know you wanted!“ 

Despite the levity, what is missed by most viewers of this ad is that Larry has briefly pulled back the curtain on one of advertisers’ key motives.

What’s the take away for mass comm students?

In class discussions about the effects of media on audiences (and consumers) I think my students see what producers of news, entertainment, and advertising are up to. They generally see the intentionality of the producers who are eliciting certain reactions and/or effects in the content of their messages. However, it’s another challenge to get students “fired up” about the ethical uncertainties of large and powerful groups (e.g., media conglomerates and their advertising shills) wielding almost limitless and generally unquestioned influence on the American psyche. Perhaps they would rather not consider the mind-boggling ramifications that advertisers’ psychological hegemony has on our current financial crises, both personal and institutional.

Jesus encourages us to be “shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Paul warns us that “even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). Finally, Peter warns us that “by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved” (2 Peter 2:19)

So… Are you in debt? Hooked on Pringles?

Perhaps it all started with a dose of cognitive dissonance that grew into an unquenchable habit. (Tweet This) And, yes, advertisers intended for it to be so!

Darrell Roe (Ph.D., UGA, 1998) is an Assoc. Prof. of Mass Communication at ETBU. His specialty is analyzing the content of visual media and its effects on audiences.

 

 

Doppelganger

There are a few definitions of a doppelganger. I choose the one that defines it as a living person’s double, an unrelated twin. In some countries, the doppelganger is a bearer of bad news or an omen of death.

doppelganger

Photo Credit: c2k2e via Compfight cc

I remember going to a leadership conference in Georgia with Allan,  a former BSM director from ETBU. We were having lunch with other attendees and striking up a conversation with the waitress. Allan remarked how she looked exactly like one of our ETBU students and how it would be great to get them together. At that statement, the waitress got a horrified look on her face. It turns out that in her culture, they believe everyone has a double in the world, and if you meet your double, one of you will die. End of witnessing opportunity…

If this omen of death belief were more widespread, then maybe the topic of cloning would be less alluring. Making your own doppelganger would have dire consequences.

Many people are still enamored with making human clones. At the beginning of the 21st century, several groups claimed to have successfully cloned  a human baby, but there was never any proof to their claims. Cloning of humans was banned by the United Nations, but not all countries follow the resolution. Most agree on banning reproductive cloning, but some want to continue human therapeutic cloning efforts. Last year was a giant step forward in human therapeutic cloning science (see Attack of the Clones blog), and some labs continue to try to reproductively clone humans. It is still not possible to clone a human with current technology.

We know there are natural clones. We call them identical twins. An egg is fertilized with a sperm and the resulting zygote, for some reason, splits in two and develops into two people. Clones who share the exact DNA with each other. So when we attempt to clone ourselves, we want to replicate that process. Just take our DNA and make another person just like us.

twins with flower

Photo Credit: Len Radin via Compfight cc

The problem is that we are not just DNA. There is more to making a human than genetics. For instance, almost all of the cell contents come from the egg. Not just half the DNA, but all the organelles and cell proteins too. To clone ourselves, we need the exact cell contents that were in our zygote. That means our mother’s egg (the exact one we came from). And that’s weird on several levels.

Also, just the act of fertilization starts a timer for the genetics. Genes turn on and off at the proper timing to get development to work right. With cloning, we have to trick the cell into developing and it doesn’t work right 98% of the time. And the of the times that work, 80% are not normal.

Many of the abnormalities resemble genomic imprinting disorders. This happens when the DNA from mom and the DNA from dad don’t work right together. In most genes, having two copies working is perfectly fine, however in a small percentage, one set of genes needs to be turned off. This happens with conception, but not with nuclear cloning. The imprinted genes are not programmed properly in the clone leading to abnormalities. Genomic imprinting fits in the realm of epigenetics.

What about the clones with genetic defects? They will have high medical costs. Currently imprinting disorders that cause mental or physical abnormalities carry medical costs of several million dollars over the lifetime of the child. Who will cover that cost? The cloning laboratory? Insurance companies? Taxpayers?

Even with all the difficulties, scientists are still attempting to clone, and probably will succeed someday. So, what about the clone itself?

  • Will it be a zombie like person with only animal instincts to drive it?
  • Will it be able to think and learn like a human?
  • Will it have constitutional rights and protection?
  • Will it have a Spirit?

Remember that we have clones walking among us. Those identical twins. Do they have rights and thoughts and ambition and Spirits?

Of course they do.

So if we can manipulate DNA and produce a clone, we won’t nullify the humanity of the clone.

And does that mean that the Spirit lies within the genetics of humans?

Humans have a Spirit. Humans are genetic creatures. Therefore, Spirit and genetics have to be connected somehow. Maybe it is epi-epigenetics…

Makes my head hurt…it would be much easier to just avoid my doppelganger completely.

dsb

 

What Not to Say to Your Professor

One of the things that we talk about a lot in leadership is trying to be empathetic and understand the perspective of those you lead.  I normally have a pretty easy time putting myself in other people’s shoes and I really value diversity, so this is typically a fairly easy exercise for me.  In fact, sometimes I think I make concessions that I shouldn’t make because I feel for the other person.

But today is not one of those days!

Today, I’m tired and busy.  And one too many student has said one of those things that really, really frustrate me.  So, since this is supposed to be a reflective blog…I’m going to reflect aloud to the world in an attempt to gain some empathic perspective.

Here are the things I’ve heard today that have just nearly sent me over the edge (along with my personal interpretation & my attempt at an empathic hearing):

1.  Did I miss anything in class on Monday?

  • What I hear: I couldn’t be bothered to come to class on Monday, but now I’d like you to do double the work by teaching all of it to me again.
  • What you probably mean: I’m trying to make sure I haven’t missed anything and would like to double-check that with you.

2.  I’m not going to be in your class because I’ve got to prepare for another class.

  • What I hear: Your class is not as important as this other class I have.
  • What you probably mean: I’m making the effort to tell you that I’m not going to be there because your class is important to me and I’m hoping you’ll be understanding.

3.  What do I have to do to pass this class?

  • What I hear: I’m looking to do the bare minimum in your class, but want to make sure that I come out okay in the end and I need you to make sure that happens.
  • What you probably mean: I’m just trying to survive!

4.  Is there extra credit?

  • What I hear: I can’t be bothered to do my work, but I’d like you to do extra work to create some way for me to get the grade I want.
  • What you probably mean: Ouch! That test was harder than I expected it to be and I just didn’t prepare adequately.

The reality is that as a teacher or a leader, I often do understand where you are coming from…but I have feelings too.  And sometimes the things that are inadvertently conveyed to me begin to pile up and take their toll.  I think there’s a lesson for all of us here as both leaders and followers:

Think twice about what you’re saying and how it might be received. (Tweet This)

-ep

P.S. And for any students reading this who want to ask the questions above, I’d suggest the following instead:

1.  “I’m going to miss class on Monday (meaning you’ve contacted your professor several days ahead of time), I see in the syllabus that we are covering ___________, how can I best make sure that I learn the material you’ll cover in class?”

2.  Please, just don’t say this.  Prepare early enough for your other classes that you don’t have to tell me that my class is insignificant and unimportant!  Professors do understand what it’s like to balance multiple classes and that everyone has a crazy day, but because we too go to multiple classes & have to be prepared for each of them every day, it’s really hard to hear this from you.

3.  “I have struggled up to this point in the semester and would like to see this through and really learn the material.  How might I adapt the way I’m studying/writing/preparing? And do you think it’s possible for me to get out of the hole I’ve dug for myself?”

4.  Okay, so I can’t think of any other way to say this, so maybe go ahead and ask.  Maybe just don’t count on extra credit all of the time. :)

 

E.T. phone your pastor!

I was amazed when a scholar in film criticism first brought to my attention that the movie E.T. was Steven Spielberg’s attempt to reiterate the gospel message in a fun-for-all flick about a lovable alien who befriends a boy and his family. Sure, there are similarities:

  1. An other-worldly being drops in on us lower-life organisms here on Earth (crashes the party, so to speak).
  2. He makes friends with a chosen few, especially children and those who are good.
  3. People on Earth have their own designs for him.
  4. He helps people while he is here.
  5. He makes contact with his own people while here.
  6. He suffers physically from living on Earth too long and dies an agonizing and emotional death.
  7. He recovers (or comes back to life), coinciding with those who have returned for him.
  8. He makes an amazing and emotional departure.
  9. His closest friends look forward to his return.
  10. He is forever regarded as a great person and positive influence on those he touched.

But besides these ten similarities–and perhaps a few more–why would anyone draw the conclusion that Spielberg had intentionally created his own science-fictional parallel to “the greatest story ever told”?

Photo Credit: Johnson Cameraface via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Johnson Cameraface via Compfight cc

Because he did!

And because it is a great story line! When one begins to analyze modern film motifs, it is soon clear that numerous film genres have made use of the gospel narrative as a plot design for decades. (Tweet This)

Consider some other movies which seem to have capitalized on this technique…

  1. Clint Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter (1973) and Pale Rider (1985)
  2. Superman (especially, 1978, 1980, 1983, 1987)
  3. Lucas’ Star Wars (1977) and Return of the Jedi (1983)
  4. Ghost (1990)
  5. Rambo: First Blood and Rocky III (both in 1982)
  6. The Matrix (1999)
  7. Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and Sleeping Beauty (1959)
  8. Turner and Hooch (1989)

In past blogs I referred to the usefulness of schema theory in understanding how audiences create and re-shape their views of reality based, in part, on media messages. Schema theory explains that images and situations portrayed on television and film provide building blocks for how we, the audience, construct–and re-construct–our internal (cognitive) reality. Our reality about people, politics, tangible and intangible things, including our concept of the “the self,” are made up mostly of a curious amalgamation of information bits about the things which we have been experiencing and observing since we arrived on the planet. As we learn more about anything we adjust the schematic references in our minds, or, in some cases, we adjust the incoming information to fit into the existing realities already present there, since the latter requires fewer processing resources (and less work!). This has been demonstrated by Rumelhart (1980) and others who have done extensive research using schema theory.

In short, the construction of the original gospel message (about real events) is a schema which may provide a useful framework for constructing fictional narratives. It may be considered a very successful vehicle for carrying a message from one point to another, such as from script to director to editor to audiences. The cohesiveness of the plot mechanism allows one to creatively attach a variety of discrete–even bizarre–story elements to it and allow the plot vehicle to unify uncommon elements into a common, easily-understood, even fun to tell story line.

What’s the take away for mass comm students?

Photo Credit: 1upLego via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: 1upLego via Compfight cc

My students should understand that every media product they create has the potential (and likelihood) to be interpreted as intentionally referencing both sacred and profane texts. Thus, they should be very careful to write informative news reports, produce engaging commercials, make inspiring music, and create press releases that do not encourage insinuations, double entendres, and potentially embarrassing unintended meanings. And when producing Christian media, they should be especially diligent to faithfully represent God’s Word and truth because people will ultimately judge the producer and the product more severely if they feel s/he has taken unnecessary liberties in storytelling. Finally, conscientious Christians in the TV and film industry likely do not want to accidentally give people the wrong impression about the Bible based on the escapades of a fictional character!

Darrell Roe (Ph.D., UGA, 1998) is an Assoc. Prof. of Mass Communication at ETBU. His specialty is analyzing the content of visual media and its effects on audiences.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

One of the most amazing organs in the body is the brain. (Tweet This)

A lot of people think that the functioning of the brain is the most distinguishing human feature. In other words, the way we think is what separates us from the other animals.

Our brain is so amazing that we tend to take it for granted.  It’s only when a problem shows up that we begin to appreciate the enormous amount of processing the goes on the brain.  Chemical imbalances, injuries or diseases focus our attention on those processes that are altered.

Most people are aware of some primary areas of the brain. These include areas for the six senses (see previous blog), and for muscle control. There are also association areas for the senses that provide perception and understanding of the sensory inputs.

When someone gets a stroke or tumor in one of the primary areas, they lose that sense or movement, but when the association areas get damaged, strange  amazing interactions can result.

For instance, damage to the primary visual cortex results in blindness. The person is not able to see images at all. Damage to the association area can cause a person to be blind, but in unusual ways. Certain people are able to look at an object and draw it, but not name it. Others can see the object, recognize the object by touch behind a curtain, but not name it. Others have no problem naming the object but draw some weird scribbles that they say is the object.

One deficit caused a woman to be blind to moving objects. If it was still, she saw it. If it moved, it disappeared to her brain. Her life was like a stop motion movie with snapshots of still objects, but sounds of movement all around her.

Some people have unusual deficits that cause the left side of objects to disappear. They see and draw only the right side of images. If you have them imagine standing on the street, they can remember only the buildings on the right side of the block. If they mentally move to the end of the block and look back, they see only the buildings that are now on the right, the invisible ones from a minute ago.

My mother-in-law suffered a stroke last Thursday (prayers are appreciated). Her deficits appear to be in the language areas of the brain. She has lost several spoken words from her vocabulary. She knows the word she wants to say, but it is not the word that comes out of her mouth. She hears the word from her mouth and knows it is wrong, but can’t make the right word come out. It is very frustrating.

In the late 1970’s, Steve Martin joked about teaching an imaginary son the wrong words, so that when the boy asked to go to the bathroom, it came out “mumble dogface in the banana patch…”

It’s not so funny when it happens in real life. The injured brain connects a different meaning to the spoken word. The patient is confused when others can’t understand the simple request they are making. They are trapped in a world of an unlearnable language. They can get frustrated and angry, lashing out with tantrums or becoming depressed.

Motor control can be affected in strokes or cerebral palsy. People find their body doesn’t respond to their brain. It might be speech  muscles or half the body in strokes, to malfunctions of entire body in cerebral palsy. They are trapped inside a shell that doesn’t function. Their thoughts and feelings are still normal, but the body just doesn’t perform. Again, frustration is the outcome of everyday efforts.

When the interactions of the brain are functioning well, we tend to forget how complex those interactions can be. We take for granted everyday activities such as walking, communicating, and thinking…until the activities go away.

dsb

Simon Says

I remember as a child playing Simon Says in the front driveway of my grandparent’s home.

“Simon says take one step forward.”

“Simon says put your hand on your head.”

“Turn around.”

“Ah! Simon didn’t say!”

Many of us initially think leadership looks a lot like a game of Simon Says. (Tweet This) Someone (the leader) tells us what to do and we do as we’re told.

Yesterday in class, my students were reflecting on the leadership of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain who commanded the 20th Regiment of Infantry, Maine Volunteers during the Civil War.  When the 2nd Regiment was decommissioned, 120 men were reassigned to Chamberlain.  Those men refused reassignment so they were taken under armed guard to Chamberlain.  After 3 days without food, General George G. Meade of the Army of the Potomac instructed Chamberlain to “make them do duty or shoot them down the moment they refused.”

Meade believed that threats of harm should be enough to get soldiers to do as they are told.  He believed in the Simon Says model.

Chamberlain disagreed.  He fed the men and then painted a picture. Well, not a picture made with paint on canvas.  But he created a compelling vision of what they could accomplish together.  He used carefully chosen words to help them envision what the future could look like if they all worked together.

Chamberlain told them “Here you can be something.  Here’s a place to build a home.  It isn’t the land–there’s always more land.  It’s the idea that we all have value, you and me, we’re worth something more than the dirt….What we’re fighting for , in the end, is each other….” (Useem, The Leadership Moment, p. 134).

When we discuss different approaches to leadership in class, many of my students make the assumption that military leaders rely on the Simon Says method to get the job done.  While, I must confess that I know very, very little about the military, I’m not sure that the Simon says method is the only one used in the military.

I had the distinct honor of visiting the Army Fires Training School at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma just a few weeks ago.  I met some really incredible men and women.  And I heard many of them talk about the necessity of earning credibility with those they lead.  They spoke passionately about living out the values in which they believe.  Certainly, you want people who are well-trained and can respond to direct commands, especially when you’re in the midst of a crisis.  But, I heard a lot more conversations that sounded like Chamberlain than Meade.  Maybe they could give orders, but they didn’t seem to believe that’s always the most effective way to lead.

Painting a compelling vision is much more challenging than giving orders. (Tweet This)

It certainly requires more time and effort and thought.  But in the end, it’s worth it.  Don’t we all want to be a part of something bigger? Don’t we all want to contribute to something meaningful?  Don’t we all want to invest our time and lives and energy in something that we believe?

I do.

And doesn’t painting a compelling vision support what we believe about how we are to live as followers of Christ? If we truly believe that each individual is created in God’s image and should be treated with dignity and respect, shouldn’t we share the vision rather than just giving orders?  If we are to treat others as we want to be treated (and we want to work toward something meaningful), wouldn’t we help people understand the big picture they are working toward?

As a leader, I need to paint a picture that allows others to see the possibilities if we all work together.  To return to the image of childhood games, it becomes more like a game of capture the flag than a game of Simon Says.  In capture the flag we all know our roles.  The entire team knows our goal and aim.  We discuss and agree upon a strategy to reach the target.  And when we all know the goal, we can each make split-second decisions as the situation changes.  We don’t have to wait for “Simon” to tell us what we’re supposed to do.

-ep

The “Happy” Bug

I had planned to write this blog with some critical observations about the hugely popular song “Happy” (from the movie Despicable Me 2 soundtrack by Pharrell Williams, aka “Pharrell”). Numerous mock-ups and imitations of his original music video have posted on YouTube from groups all over the U.S. and around the world, from colleges to Congressmen, and everybody else in between. It seemed like easy prey for my critical eye (and typing fingers) to point out how superficial were all these unfortunate, child-like, overly-optimistic, too-easily-entertained Internet wannabe sensations.

As mentioned, I had planned to blog thusly, until, having watched a few of these amateurish, low-production-value vignettes,

I caught the bug!!

Sadly, it only took a few minutes of online viewing, and I had an raging case of “Happy” fever. I simply couldn’t help but enjoy the positive, unassuming faces and unpolished choreography. I began to take greater and greater delight in the carefree, no-strings-attached, boundless joy exhibited by the participants whose uncomplicated yet contagiously sincere joy seems motivated by nothing more than swaying to the catchy rhythms of Pharrell’s redundant melody, easy-to-sing lyrics, and uplifting tone. There is something magnetic about the smiles and unrehearsed moves that makes one want to “catch” whatever they’ve got going for them!

To be fair…

you should start with the “official” music video by Pharrell. Then feel free to click on and watch some of the takes on Pharrell’s video below (a small fraction of those available online):

  1. Great Lakes Institute of Management (U.S.)
  2. Syracuse University
  3. Children in China
  4. People in Santiago, Chile
  5. People in Prague, Czech Republic
  6. People in Kampot, Cambodia (disabled citizens)
  7. People in Laval, France
  8. People in Rome, Italy
  9. People in Abu Dhabi (U.A.E.) (about 40 nationalities shown)
  10. People in Jerusalem (mostly teenagers)

If I have any critique about the “Happy” song’s message, in my melodically-induced-dopamine joie de vivre, it would be to remind folks that happiness is, in fact, not the truth. Jesus is the truth–and way and life (John 14:6), as he himself has also reminded us (see also John 8: 31-32). Only a personal relationship with Jesus Christ can bring us genuine and enduring happiness, as well as peace and hope. If our happiness is based merely on the transitory pleasures of this fallen world, no matter how innocent or noble, it will surely not last. Rather, we will experience the same roller coaster ride of ups and downs on our journey through this time side of life as do those who don’t know the Lord at all. Jesus also reminded His disciples (and us) that “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27, NASB). And the apostle Paul, even though in prison, writes “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4: 4, NASB). Perhaps most memorable are what have been referred to as the Beattitudes, 9 prescriptions for happiness direct from the Lord’s mouth in his hillside sermon. (As you read these, remember that the word “blessed” may also be translated “happy.”) Therein, we should find the greatest fulfillment for our souls, as well as our minds. (see Matthew 5:1-12) (Tweet This)

What’s the take away for mass comm students?

Bastien (2009) showed us that music has the ability to foster productive dialogue on important issues. I’ve recently covered this in my Senior Seminar (capstone) class at ETBU as we discussed the dibilitating effects of the stigma of being diagnosed and living with HIV/AIDS, especially in developing nations (including some in Africa and Latin America). Bastien believes that African popular songs may be an effective use of mass media, in that they may help overcome resistance and help push back some of the barriers to effective discussion and get people talking. Specifically, Bastien expects this will happen in three distinct ways:

  1. Helping correct risky behaviors associated with HIV/AIDS
  2. Helping correct misunderstandings about how HIV/AIDS is spread
  3. Providing context and appeal for popular social issues (through allegories and themes in songs)

King David, who frequently made time to worship the Lord in song and verse, found happiness in his relationship with his Heavenly Father. The psalms he was inspired to write can help us do the same. For example, “Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him. Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart! (Psalm 32:10-11, NIV)

So… why not lower your defenses and try to “catch” a little of the “Happy” bug? And then…?

Try to spread it!

Darrell Roe (Ph.D., UGA, 1998) is an Assoc. Prof. of Mass Communication at ETBU. His specialty is analyzing the content of visual media and its effects on audiences.

The Time of Our Lives

“`If you knew Time as well as I do,’ said the Hatter, `you wouldn’t talk about wasting it. It’s him.’
 `I don’t know what you mean,’ said Alice.
 `Of course you don’t!’ the Hatter said, tossing his head contemptuously. `I dare say you never even spoke to Time!’
 `Perhaps not,’ Alice cautiously replied: `but I know I have to beat time when I learn music.’
 `Ah! that accounts for it,’ said the Hatter. `He won’t stand beating. Now, if you only kept on good terms with him, he’d do almost anything you liked with the clock…”

mad hatter

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  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll.

Time is another one of those things we live with that is difficult to understand scientifically. We know about it, lose track of it, manage it, but when you try to define and explain it scientifically, it gets really weird.

The official unit of time is the second which is defined as the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the cesium 133 atom (told you it gets weird).

Time is considered by some to be the 4th dimension of space and is intricately bound with space. Time is relative to the position and speed traveling though space. For example, time on earth is different from time on the space shuttle (weird), and if you could reach the speed of light, time would stand “still”…

When we are working with time in our lives, we are looking more at the passing of time. We don’t want to define it; we want to keep track of it.

clock with lunar

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We use clocks and calendars to standardize the passing of time, so everyone is on the same page when it comes to time. The passing of time is really noticing the recurring rhythms that occur in our lives. Some powerful rhythms of time are the daily solar cycle, monthly lunar cycle and yearly seasonal cycle.

 

sunrise tree

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Our bodies contain internal timekeepers called biological clocks. These clocks set the timing of several physiological rhythms such as hormones, digestion, cell division, tissue repair, activity, sleep, etc. The multiple clocks are regulated by a master clock in the brain which is synchronized to 24 hr daily rhythm by sunlight. If all our internal rhythms stay in-sync with the daily rhythm, we feel better and function better.

Years ago, we worked sunrise to sunset and stayed pretty well synchronized with the 24 hr rhythm. With modern society, we’ve  altered our environment with electric lights to give us more productive time during our night. We’ve extended our working day. We are no longer at the mercy of the sunset. We can work as long as we want into the night.

He (Time) won’t stand beating.

If there is anyone trying to beat time, it would have to be college students.  College students are not known for their time management skills.  They wait until the last minute to finish projects or papers.  This makes for a lot of late, sleepless nights trying to beat the deadlines.  And of course, the fun doesn’t begin until after 10 pm. Everyone knows the movies are a better at the midnight premieres. College equals sleep deprivation.

Time won’t stand beating.

multiple clocks (2)

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Another problem is the body’s own internal timekeeper.  The biological clock has to be overridden in order to pull the all-nighters.  The light at night unsynchronizes the biological clock from the sunrise. Our body rhythms begin to get out of sync. Then after the late nights during the week, we sleep in on Saturday and Sunday which disrupts our biological clock even more. Then we have  to get up for 8 am class on Monday. The body clock has synchronized to the later time schedule and has to reset several hours to get back to normal. We have given ourselves artificial jet-lag. And jet-lag takes several days to get over so by the time our clocks are resynchronized, its back to oversleeping on the weekend again. We try to beat the internal clock in order to maintain our lifestyle. (Tweet This)

Time won’t stand beating. You know the old saying. if you can’t beat them, join them…

Now, if you only kept on good terms with him (time), he’d do almost anything you liked with the clock…

Keeping on good terms with your biological time means adjusting your habits.

  • Keep lighting as low as possible during the nighttime
  • Try to get plenty of sleep each night (close to 8 hours)
  • Try to get up at the same time each day, even on weekends
  • Limit naps and caffeine during the afternoon

When you do find yourself at odds with your clock, try to get out in the sunlight during the morning hours. Morning sunlight will help resynchronize your clock to the daily rhythm.

dsb

Divergent

While I normally leave the discussions of movie, tv, radio and the like to my colleague, I’m going to make an exception this week.  Over the weekend, I went to see Divergent.  I’ve read the entire trilogy, so I’ve been looking forward to its release for quite a while. (Yes, I do read young adult fiction.  I can’t read scholarly articles all the time!)

For those of you who haven’t yet read the book (or seen the movie), I’ll give you a quick overview…
In the futuristic Chicago of Veronica Roth’s Divergent, citizens are divided into five factions.  Each faction celebrates and cultivates a particular virtue in its members:

divergent

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Dauntless  – Bravery
Erudite – Knowledge/Intelligence
Candor – Honesty
Amity – Peacemaking
Abnegation – Selflessness

While Divergent is not the first (and likely won’t be the last) in the recent string of dystopian young adult fiction, I’ve appreciated the leadership discussion embedded within the story.  Throughout the books, there are implicit questions about what characteristics or virtues really make a person fit to lead.

Early in the books, all of the leaders of society come from Abnegation. It’s assumed that those who are humble and selfless are best able to make decisions and allocate resources in a way that will serve all of society.

Some characters in the story believe that the Erudite are best suited for leadership because of their high intelligence, commitment to learning, and diligent study.

There are also a number of decisions by leaders in the book that allow the reader to consider ethical dilemmas of leadership.  They are the same sort of questions we consider in my classes:

  • Do the ends justify the means in leadership?
  • Is manipulation an appropriate tool for leadership?
  • Does the leader have the greater responsibility to reveal all information to followers, or to protect them from potentially harmful information?

These are the same kinds of questions that philosophers and students of politics, history, and leadership have been asking for centuries.  Forgive my over-simplification of these heavy philosophical works, but many of the most significant writings in history have assumed that only certain people should lead or that they should lead in particular ways:

  • Plato designed his ideal society in the Republic with philosophers as his rulers of choice.
  • Machiavelli’s Prince argues that “it is far safer to be feared than loved”as a leader.
  • Locke says no one should be subjected to the will of another and advocates for majority rule.
  • Carlyle believes that those who possess divinely inspired knowledge have the right to lead.

I’m not sure that we consistently ask such deep questions about our leaders today.  It would seem we are often more interested in results, final products, and track record rather than with character, virtue, and ethical perspective when it comes to our leaders. Perhaps we need to reframe the kinds of questions we ask during presidential debates, CEO interviews, and pastoral searches to reflect a deeper kind of thinking about who should lead.

I’m also thrilled that we (as human beings and as leaders) can possess more than one faction’s virtues.  I think I might really appreciate following a selfless, courageous, honest, peacemaking leader who also wants to study to gain additional knowledge and skill.  And while maybe that person is too perfect to exist outside of the pages of fiction, I’d like to believe that our leaders would value all of those virtues enough to surround themselves with co-workers, mentors, counselors, and advisers who supplement their areas of weaknesses.

What about you?  Who do you believe ought to lead?

-ep