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Archive for the ‘Credibility’ Category

God-Talk and Other BS

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Do Communication and Spirituality Connect?

I say “Yes.”

And I say it manifests in the ordinary conversations of everyday life.

Let me prove it: deep down in your brain-pan, where you instantly recoil from people who snap at you; back down there where your inner child says snarky, politically incorrect, frankly obscene, stuff that your adult, outer-self edits and translates to “Hmm. I see….”

Deep down there in the hidden recesses—that’s part of the connection.

Your immediate responses to the stuff of everyday life can tip you off that things are not right—deep down in the soul. Yes—I’m talking about weird stuff. But you have an inner life, right? A place where no one visits but you.

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If that inner place is full of doubt, while your outer self—the adult self in tie and loafers, who edits and translates the inner child’s voice so the rest of the world remains unaware what a low-life that kid is—if that outer self proclaims stable faith in God and corporation and the upright institutions (ha ha) that surround us—that’s where the cognitive dissonance starts. That’s the precise locus of hypocrisy.

Mind you: I’m big on doubt. Questions are good. Questioning institutions and the quick answers to life’s hard questions—I’m all for that. Talking unbelief to God makes perfect sense to me (Just read Job, my patron saint of doubt honestly-processed).

It’s the saying one thing while believing another I’m not for. It is that very place where God-talk becomes BS. And I believe most of us have sixth-sense/BS detector that goes off when outer words don’t match inner life—even if we cannot put our finger on exactly why. I am most certainly talking to myself here as well.

We need to process our bouts of cognitive dissonance together to keep our God-talk from becoming BS—rudderless words without the ballast of belief and action a life-lived.

If you don’t have a friend to be honest with, find one.

This is important.

Today is Good Friday—a day when the Christian Church celebrates (is that even the right word?) Jesus’ death. Three days later we celebrate that this dead guy is dead no longer.

I appreciate this time of year for processing doubts together with others. Quite often we come away rejoicing. And somehow more whole.

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Image credit: Kirk Livingston

By the way: I’ve written ListenTalk: Is Conversation an Act of God? to explore this connection. Pre-order here.

Fie on You, Toilet-Writer

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Don’t Be This Writer

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At least try your recommendation before declaring so boldly.

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Written by kirkistan

April 2, 2015 at 9:19 am

What does fresh hope sound like for cynical colleagues? (How to Talk #3)

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A credible word spoken boldly

Constant cynicism is a downward spiral that saps energy, like the dome light on all night—little by little wasting energy for no reason. Eventually the car will not start. Have a conversation with a cynic and the world looks a shade or two darker.

Offering fresh hope to a cynical colleague is not about squatting at the other end of the emotional spectrum, babbling like a Pollyanna. That is quickly seen as fanciful.

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No.

Fresh hope is a word of the moment that is credible and believable. A word about where we are going or what we are doing that becomes meaningful. If not meaningful right now, meaningful later. Fresh hope has a way of stopping the cynic, if only momentarily. But even the cynic finds herself meditating on a word spoken yesterday or the day before. The cynic happily shoots down the platitude, but his trigger-finger falters at a contextual insight from a conscious person processing a shared experience.

Fresh hope requires a bit of courage. Cynicism and general world-weariness is always in style.

But hope? Not so much.

But what’s the point of conversation if not to speak up boldly about what is important?

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Dumb sketch: Kirk Livingston

Can 78 bad sketches change your life?

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Don’t stunt your growth by reaching for fame

It’s funny we gauge personal success by numbers of followers. It’s as if we’ve adopted the business transaction as a model for every area of our lives.

Business wants more eyeballs for more attention for more revenue for more profit. And that makes perfect sense for our business goals.

What’s problematic is when we confuse business with what humans need to move forward: Doing what attracts attention and gathers “Likes” is often very different from the stuff our souls need to grow.

Your business factory is not a solid model for personal growth

Your business factory is not a solid model for personal growth

One thing I’m learning from the artists and photographers I’ve been interacting with at Dumb Sketch Daily (currently at bad drawing #78) is that while today’s drawing is (clearly) imperfect, there is always tomorrow’s drawing. And I know what I’ll do different in that drawing. I know I’ll try this technique, or that view, or this topic. I’ll do it again and create yet another imperfect representation of the world.

And that’s OK.

Because the pursuit is about learning to see, learning how to draw, learning how to write. Learning how to tell the truth. Learning how to interact with each other. Learning how to be human. Perhaps even learning how to interact with God.

The goal is not fame, unless you really want to turn this pursuit into a business. But learning itself—whether crowds acknowledge you or whether you plod silently and alone—learning is its own reward.

But I still argue your growth is also a benefit to the humans around you.

And while I don’t think 78 bad sketches have changed my life, I can say with certainty that I see things differently than I did 78 days ago.

 

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Dumb Sketch: Kirk Livingston

Where Can I Buy a Fine-Art Mode?

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The Beauty of Knowing Nothing

I don’t have a fine-tuning mode that tinkers with physical detail. I draw and it is mostly crude. I cut plywood and pine shelves and they are rough enough to make my craftsman-father scoff into his hand. I make dinner and it is mostly broad-stroke stuff that requires very little finessing. I will confess my popcorn is a work of art, combining yellow and white kernels, salted and buttered and mixed to a sensuous, savory smack of flavor. And I am learning how words interact on a page—though it is slow going.

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How does someone get to the point of crafting from rough cuts to fine finished detail? It is possible that in this age of ordering clothes, pizza and romance from a button on our mobile devices, that some things still take time. Some things require beginning at the beginning. The question for each of us: do I have the courage to begin at the beginning? To know nothing for a time and do things badly?

The beauty about not having been taught drawing is that you are in a position of the acquirer: the process of figuring it out might take a while, and you will most likely continue to figure stuff out as you go, but that process is yours. There are no shortcuts and no tricks. Just the plain practice of drawing, screwing up, and drawing some more.

–France Belleville-Van Stone in Sketch! (NY: Watson-Guptill, 2014)

You cannot buy personal processes. Not really. You have to make them from scratch—those processes that help you make meaning in the world. And you have to begin at the beginning.

Mistake will be made.

You will make those mistakes.

And that’s OK.

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Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Gadamer: A Tormented Relationship to Writing

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The Best Writing Sounds Nothing Like Writing

Good writing is where you remember nothing about grappling with words but are instead transported with images and ideas that appeared in your brainpan. Effortlessly—or so it seems.

This kind of effortless reading is exceptionally rare with philosophers, who are well-known for obfuscation in their pursuit of parsing detail and cleaving difference from sameness. And yet Donatella Di Cesare, the biographer of philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer, claims Gadamer’s writing style is “lucid” with “striking prose.”

We’ll see about that.

The lucid philosopher is the exceeding rare philosopher.

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I’ve just picked up Gadamer: A Philosophical Portrait by Donatella Di Cesare (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2007). In the introduction Di Cesare shared about her process:

There is a further difficulty that a monograph on Gadamer should not avoid, and that is his tormented relationship to writing. In order to get around his Socratic resistance to writing, he preferred the form of the lecture, the talk, or the debate. It is not an exaggeration to say that almost everything he wrote is based in dialogue.

She goes on to say Gadamer is “always careful to interrogate everyday language and to avoid rigid terminology,” so I am eager to see how his prose ends up as lucid and striking rather than simply tedious.

What piqued my curiosity was Gadamer’s alleged privileging of oral over written. It seems his inquiry was largely based in discussion, between people, rather than one man alone with a sheet of 20# bond and a pen. Again: I’m just at the beginning of reading Gadamer. I’ve got his big Truth and Method on order, but I know from my own writing that dialogue and conversation have a pull that abstract philosophizing rarely reaches.

The best writing sounds like a conversation with an interesting friend. I’m eager to see if Gadamer achieves that.

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Image credit: Kirk Livingston

The Lamp Repair Man and the Factory Owner

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How do business and passion mix?

A man had a small business repairing oil lamps. He repaired wicks or refilled lamps with oil—whatever was needed. He took his cart to different neighborhoods and called out for business: “Lamp repair” and “Fix your lamp.”

When people brought their lamps to the man, they would watch him trim or replace the wick, refill the oil and polish the glass. The man had a quick rhythm to his method: he sang a song softly that guided him through his process of checking each lamp. The man was unfailingly kind and full of joy and neighborhood kids loved to watch him as he worked. He would often say providing light was what he was meant to do.

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One day a factory owner was home for the morning. He was feeling a bit unwell from celebrating late into the night after successfully negotiating deep concessions with the largest union at his factory. When he heard “Lamp repair” shouted outside and remembered his children exclaiming over the charms of the lamp repair man, he stood and picked up the lamp he had been reading by and made his way outside.

The lamp repairman took the lamp and quickly sang his song to himself as he checked it over. Then he trimmed the wick, polished the glass and handed it back to the factory owner since it was nearly full of oil.

“What do I owe you, Mr. Lamp Repairman?” asked the factory owner.

“Oh, nothing,” said the man. “That took no time.”

The factory owner would not have it.

“But surely your time is worth something,” he said. “Surely you have some small fee for checking and trimming and polishing. I own a factory and I must pay for every bit of my employees’ attention.”

“Well,” said the man. “I’ve found that I am most interested in how light works and what it provides. I love a well-lit page when I read and I am eager for good lighting for others. So it actually rewards me when I can get someone’s lamp working well.”

“But can you live on good feelings?” asked the factory owner. “Do your good feelings buy potatoes or flour? Can you pay your landlord with good feelings?”

“True,” said the man. “Good feelings don’t buy much in the open market. But good intentions find their way back. I have found that helping those along my regular route helps build my business. People return when there lamp needs repair because they know I’ll be fair and they know I’ll do my best to get their cherished lamp working. You give a little, you get a little.”

“I see,” said the factory owner. “Give a bit away free and then get rewarded with loyal customers. Good strategy.”

“Yes,” said the man. “It was a good strategy for many years. But today I am actually well-provided for. I’m not rich, but my wife and children and I have enough. I actually charge only rarely because I don’t need to and because I am interested in the lives of these customers who have become friends over the years. Children and grandchildren of long-time customers bring out their lamps. I am eager that they have enough light for the many books they read and drawings they make and conversations they have.”

The factory owner took his lamp and walked back to his home, thinking back to the work he did that started his own factory.

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Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

February 25, 2015 at 10:14 am

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