Sunday Story for Monday: the Counter-intuitive Ways of Sheep among Wolves
Can words spoken from a low power position influence others?
This older Harvard Business School article (Power Posing: Fake It Until You Make It) describes how simply snapping your body into a power pose can have a physiologic effect. Read about the small study (N=42) by Cuddy, Carney and Yap here. Striking a pose for two-minutes stimulated higher levels of testosterone (hormone linked to dominance) and lower levels of cortisol (so-called stress hormone) in the study group. People literally felt more powerful and less stressed after their pose.
Every human dreams of more power. More power translates to being respected. Maybe power looks like speaking and being heard as one with authority. And perhaps with more power we’ll become benevolent despots bestowing good unto others as we stride through our own personal kingdoms.
The promise of more power is intimately tied with many of our messages about leadership development. Industries and institutions will always buy more technique about leadership development because, well, who doesn’t want to be perceived as capable and full of power?
In stark contrast, there’s an old story about how Jesus saw the authorities of his day use their power for their own aggrandizement while offering little help to the harassed and helpless crowds. So he organized and commissioned his own set of spiritual paramedics to go to the harassed and helpless.
Just before these spiritual paramedics hit the streets to proclaim and heal and cast out demons and raise the dead, Jesus told them how little personal power they would have. They would not be received well. Despite their hopeful message they would be beaten and tortured, and hauled in front of councils, governors and kings.
And that’s how it played out: powerful messages in powerless packaging.
Was there something in the powerless packaging that actually helped people hear the message? Powerful words and actions delivered by powerless, peripheral people could not be enforced or made into law. There was little outside incentive to listen. And yet what they said and did endures today, these many centuries later.
Tell me again: why is it we all seek power so eagerly?
When Constantine turned Christianity into the law of the land, the message lost much saltiness. Does my lust for power come from wanting to help people or just wanting them to play my game by my rules? Are there any truths I have to deliver today that might be helped by “aggressively empty” versus a pose of power?
Image credit: Kirk Livingston
Mr. Snowden’s revelations to the Guardian have brought me back to earth about how much of any private web work is actually public knowledge (ahem, everything).
So, to the NSA handlers following my recent searches: my interest in sodium cyanide has nothing to do with bomb-making. Can bombs be made of sodium cyanide? I’d google it but my NSA handler would only put me higher on the list of midwestern ne’er-do-wells.
And my interest in how to handle white powder—well, I can certainly see how that could be misinterpreted. Both hydrogen cyanide and sodium cyanide are byproducts of my client’s process. I’m just learning how others deal with them.
Nothing to see here.
Move along, please.
Image Credit: Frank Shepard Fairey
Well, one can dream of such gravitas
Image credit: [new lyrics for old songs]
Four minute film from Marko Slavnic
Minnesota Theology of Place: Live Performance Matters in the Twin Cities
If one were rooting around trying to sort what values and practices make a place unique, music would be a good start. Jon Bream, music critic for the StarTribune recently wrote about why Minneapolis/St. Paul has become a home away from home for many rising musical stars. Bream cited four very different artists/bands (Dawes, Brandi Carlisle, Eric Hutchinson and JD McPherson) and noted how audience turn-out in the Twin Cities fuels these artists. Mr. Bream commented:
The key factors are open-minded audiences who love live music; a variety of venues that help artists build a career, and support from radio and other media.
The Current, of course, is a vocal apologist for the new music that grows outside the mainstream (and often, eventually, moves mainstream). I would argue the Cedar Cultural Center has been doing that same good work for years and years. Then there are the high profile, historied venues like First Avenue that have helped audiences and artists form connections. There are many more, of course.
A few days back I wondered aloud what a theology of place might look like for Minnesota. I cited all sorts of influences that would speak to that question. Developing a theology of place is to look at a community from a perspective unfamiliar to most of us. It is a perspective that begins with a commitment to belief in God and then wonders what God is doing in that place, among those people, through their history. It’s a deeply rooted sort of activity: digging down and back to find out who did what and asking what they thought when they did it. And then asking how what they did affected others. And also asking how their belief structure enabled the outcomes before us.
To be intensely local for a moment, what would a theology of place look like for the Twin Cities—just starting with music? Bream’s observation of how audiences love live music fits with the general interest in theater in the cities. Apart from the Guthrie, there are dozens of small theaters in the cities that are producing memorable performances. Does a population that welcomes new music and new artists and helps support dozens of very small theaters mean we like the notion of “live performance” and see it as a way to connect with each other? Maybe we like to see our meaning made right before us—because we know that an audience is part of the meaning making.
Maybe the notion of a fondness for live performance accounts for the 20,000 people who showed up in St. Paul’s Lowertown last weekend for Northern Spark. And maybe our love for live performance accounts for the bike and craft beer cultures that are all about connecting (this year’s Artcrank pulled in an overflowing crowd).
Not that we’re unique in these things—but there’s something happening. As a curious person and one with belief in God, I cannot help but wonder what it means—even as I rejoice in the vibrant commitment to connection.
Every Day We Create Conditions Around Us
My friend had finished his Ed. D but had no luck finding a teaching position. We blamed it on the glut of Ph.Ds and the poor economy and higher education cost-cutting and whatever. And yet as we talked he said this memorable phrase which I’ve rarely heard anyone voice: “I’ve never felt more effective.” In fact, my friend had continued with the same work he had been doing for the past two decades, but something was different. Yes he had expanded responsibilities and slightly-widened authority—but it still was not the final vocational resting place. Or was it?
Walk with me.
There’s an old, old story about a warrior-king who wanted to build a house for God. But God said, “No—there’s too much blood on your hands.” So the warrior-king laid up stocks of all sorts of precious materials so his son could build this house.
Poet-philosopher-son king took his place and commenced building the house for God. But the Poet-philosopher-king understood no building could house God. The best he could do was to make a place where people could come and seek God. The Poet-philosopher-king understood that despite his power and wealth and position, there was much of life still outside the control of even the most powerful person around.
Back to my newly doctorated friend: though he had not found the permanent faculty position of authority or leadership he wanted (yet), his old work yielded a fresh effectiveness. Why is that and how?
Feeling that you are in a place of effectiveness is a rare and memorable event—at least from my perspective. Much of life is spent wondering if what we do impacts anyone at all, let alone feeling effective at it. Sometimes we see results from our work, but not nearly as often as we might like.
I wonder if the best any of us can do is to work at creating conditions around us that help others walk as they are meant to walk. The Poet-philosopher king created a space where people could cry out to God with their needs. My newly doctorate friend bundled his expanded learning/vision into his old work found new ways to help the students he spent time among.
Maybe seeking out some fabled position of effectiveness is less the answer than finding ourselves effective where we live right now today this moment.
Image credit: Kirk Livingston