To listen to the “truth” … whose truth?

Storytelling is probably the oldest craft alive: the ability to tell stories so others can see a point-of-view and repeat for others to enjoy. Journalism is one facet of storytelling, being able to provide an objective: an un-biased point-of-view of “news” for others to consume.

I have been closely watching the incidents, like the rest of the free world, in Tucson, AZ that began with the shooting of many innocent American’s on January 8th. This story has been the epicenter of local, regional, and national topics from gun control, free-speech, political transparency, and even defining what it means to be American.

As Sarah and I were having lunch, she asked me…”Why do you think so much focus has been on Gabrielle Gifford’s story and not as much on those who have been wounded and died, including the little girl” Well, it is my belief that the story of Congresswoman Gifford is the true pinnacle of this whole incident. As stated by the surgeon’s, this is a case of miracles.

From HuffingtonPost.com article on Friday, January 14, 2010:

It was the first time Giffords had opened her eye since the shooting. Kelly told Giffords to give him a thumbs-up if she could hear him. Instead, she slowly raised her left arm.

“The doctor said this is amazing what she’s doing right now and beyond our greatest hopes,” Gillibrand said.

“It felt like we were watching a miracle,” Wasserman Schultz said. “The strength that you could see flowing out of her, it was like she was trying to will her eyes open.”

On ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Thursday, Gillibrand added, “Everything that we love about Gabby was all there at that moment.”

Kelly told the president and first lady about the development as they drove from the hospital to the University of Arizona’s McKale Center, where Obama would speak at a memorial service. Kelly gave the president permission to tell the crowd about his wife’s progress.

“Gabby opened her eyes,” Obama told the cheering crowd. “So I can tell you: She knows we are here, she knows we love her, and she knows that we are rooting for her through what is undoubtedly going to be a difficult journey.”

This miracle has broken down so many conventions and pre-dispositions, bridging gaps of communities and bringing together an American story right before our eyes.

Yet, there are so many stories that are untold, those left for us to understand. We are still trying to understand why a young man would use a gun to shoot so many a point blank range. In some of the pictures, he looks like just another person, another American, someone that could be buying groceries in the next aisle. We are trying to understand why, understand his fundamental Truth that made him make the decisions he made that day.

We are also trying to understand a small church in Topeka, Kansas and their motives for protesting during funeral services of those who perished during this event. Life Magazine did a photoessay of this group, and if you look at their faces and remove the picket signs…they look like you and I. Who are they and what are their truths? What provides them the voice to shout so loudly that it is necessary to bring another opposing view-point to this volatile discussion. I do not have the answers…but I have some thoughts.

Dr. Johnny McKinney of Boulevard Baptist Church has been guiding us through a discussion and examination of the Book of Genesis, a interesting text with many points-of-view. So literalist look at this text as the true faith based creation, and others look at it as a metaphor for how to live a good christian life. We all have a point-of-view. During the discussion, he told a story of the holocaust and the trial of the architect of the holocaust in the 1960’s.

Dr. McKinney tells us that during the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem, as one of the holocaust survivors walked in to testify, that person collapsed upon seeing Eichmann for the first time. He did not collapse because he was so mad or overwhelmed with emotion from the events of the holocaust, or even what they had to go through in the concentration camps; but that Adolf Eichmann looked just like you and I. He looked “human.” This man thought the Jews were an evil group of people, and wanted to separate them from the rest of the human race.

So here is my question, why are we trying to protest the evil ones? Who are the evil ones? Did Jared Laughner see Gabrielle Gifford as evil? Does Westboro Baptist Church see those who they are protesting as evil? What is their poinit-of-view and what drives them to passionately advocate for their message. Or maybe they are driven by fear as well, not willing to take part in mutual discourse. Maybe their message is a one-way avenue to impose their truth. I am in search to understand and see their point-of-view, not to accept…but to understand. To take part in mutual discourse, open conversation, one of understanding.

As I was sitting and listening to Dr. McKinney speaking, I wrote the following. It was in response to this past week and the words of his talk this morning.

To understand ones truth does not mean you accept ones truth.

Examining and exploring another truth is a path to understanding, to see and hear another point of view.

Our truth is our reference point, our ethos. It is the foundation that makes cry, scream, laugh…our lens.

When we listen to other truths….it sometime takes out of our comfort zone both intellectually and emotionally.

When we begin to understand another truth, we put away our emotions and allow our logic step ahead and process anothers’ point-of-view.

We can dissect another’s truth and allow our emotions to express our acceptance or rejection.

We choose to not hear another point of view or truth because of fear of the unknown. Fear of what we are not certain how our logic will interpret and how our emotions can to take control.

Fear sometime drives the resistance to understand and listen to truth.

Our truth is powerful.

As storytellers, it is important to seek and understand the other point-of-view. It does not mean we must agree, but to seek and understand is the path to quality discourse that bridges gaps. As humans…quality discourse leads to healthy conversations.

Why do I write about something this political and personal on this blog, because our stories are stories of truths. We tell stories from many different points-of-view. They are full of messages and ideologies that shape the way audiences perceive a message and form the truths that shape their lives, and the lives they influence. We must be cognizant of our messages…and understand the opposing point-of-view and the people it will influence. Mutual discourse is a beautiful thing.

Do you have thoughts? I invite you to let me know! I am open for thoughts and discussion.

What is your passion? How do you find the zone?

The creative zone can sometimes be so hard to find. It does not matter when we need to create, but if inspiration has not eclipsed to the point of transferring the epiphany to our actionable finger tips, then we have not crossed the creative chasm.

The other day, I was speaking to my class about writing passionately. It is hard to grasp this idea…to write passionately. To sit down and bring theatre to the fingertips…orchestrating what is singing in our heads as true articulation.  We have a hard time jumping over that creative chasm…finding the happy place, the place where we call the zone. That is why so many creatives have writer’s block or dead periods. We sometimes take days to begin a project…mainly because it has not come to full understanding in our heads…in our hearts. We have to believe passionately about the message, the project. We have to feel it to articulate it verbally, contextually, visually, audibly .

How do we find the passion…well we have to look within ourselves and decide what makes us tick. What makes us peek up from the normal hustle and bustle of life? We have to focus in on the things that take us away from the status-quo and invigorate the juices in our heart, the passion inside us. What makes us smell the breathe of life?

How do we communicate our passion? We have to find a way to focus the energy…and be able to articualte it so others can see it through our eyes. Some of us write, some of us take pictures, some of us draw. What ever the medium may be…we have to allow it to connect with our inner thoughts as an instrument to translate, so others can see our point-of-view. The other day I watched a very successful entrepreneur articulate a vision, not through words, not through a powerpoint, but by drawing a graph, his medium…he crossed the creative chasm. No other way made sense, until he found a piece of white paper and a Sharpe.

What is the one place where you can go…the one place you know you can find the zone. You know, when you are fully in-touch with your passion? Athletes have it when they get on a hot streak, hit the next 5 three pointers back, to back, to back…without even hesitating. That is the zone…the happy place. The place where we are fully in-touch with our abilities to articulate our passion for others to see. Mine is when I am driving with the windows down and the music blasting. I go to my creative place, the place where I am in-touch with my ability to see things clearly.

Where is this place for you? Where is the zone? How do you find it to release your inner passion for others to clearly see the world through your senses…that is when we tell our story. It helps us lead!

Social Media – A Digital Discourse Community

Over the last month I have been diving into my work and stepping back from this digital community…basically observing. This digital community that has been coined as “Social Media” has been emerging for years, and there are so many contributors. The growth of digital connection points are inflating faster than an “e” ratio.

I think back to 1993 when I was first introduced to the “Internet” and “Electronic Mail.” It was a way to communicate with a college girlfriend at Appalachian State University in Boone. By the time I was a junior at Clemson in 1995, they were teaching some of the first web development courses and creating online Dungeon and Dragons for communities to interact. These digital community continued to grow and language continued to evolve, especially with the advent of online chatting like AOL Instant Messenger. There was a distinction between Synchronous and Asynchronous Communication. Bottomline, individuals began experiencing a digital divide that separated their thoughts from their audiences…it was called a keyboard and a computer screen. This was the enabler that allowed us to become empowered with our thoughts, ambitions, and the ability to engage in discourse that would not normally be socially accepted within an in-person interaction. This was the true beginning of the digital divide as we know it…the new social media revolution. A platform to freely express and lay claim to our thoughts…and the best part, we could turn it off when it was convenient for us as the author.

The New Digital Discourse Community has been growing for the last decade and has not only empowered movements, but given voice to those who were not willing to share previously. It began to coin the term “Thought Leadership” providing ample space for free-thinkers to gain a equitable landscape against those who owned it for so many years, the mass media outlets. The printing press did the same thing with the Bible, printing books against the will of the Catholic Church and now we use this online paradigm to lay claim to that same thought leadership.

Now…communities are growing all over. From Facebook, Twitter, NFL Fantasy Football Leagues, Ning, Blogs, and the list goes on and on. The discourse communities are growing faster and the conversation is more powerful with less words. Take a look at Twitter. Communities of conversations based on 140 characters. Hashtags that help us organize thoughts or organize like minded conversations. Language is evolving and it has nothing to do with abbreviations, it has everything to do with context. The context is the new age marketing paradigm that brings voice to small people and businesses of the world to compete against big box competitors.

Just imagine, at any point in time….you could enter one of these online groups, post a comment, picture, or video and be heard around the world instantly. Just ask those who used Twitter during the Haiti earthquake, they used it to be found…someone was listening and some responded. Communities of discourse, language being traded and now we are trying to not only leverage the language  but the communities that exchange the language.

Let’s look at what Wikipedia terms as discourse community: The term discourse community links the terms discourse, a concept describing all forms of communication that contribute to a particular, institutionalized way of thinking; and community, which in this case refers to the people who use, and therefore help create, a particular discourse.

Leverage…we are leveraging the hopes of this and these communities. We are filling rooms of people, signing up clients, engaging conversations with those to pay us to help them with this discourse community. Why…for leverage. I am not complaining. I have clients that have paid me for my hands on training and knowledge to a truly un-defined marketing medium that is escalating faster than college course can be created. Hell, I am teaching students to use it to leverage others. But what are this or these discourse communities that we are talking about? Just another place to share knowledge, exchange ideas, leverage relationships, and gain market share…this discourse is the same discourse exchanged in a new, digital community…online. Are we really saving money by cutting printing costs for the new digital medium or just re-allocating resources for another marketing venue? I would be willing to bet that the communities built around traditional media, those same mediums being phased out for newer digital mediums, cost the same to run online. It costs money for servers, bandwidth, power, people and just as eco-non-friendly as cutting trees.

This is not a rant, yet an examination. It is not meant to diminish media(s) but to get right down to the core. We as practitioners must recognize the inherent value of media and the discourse communities that surround…and decide if it fits our needs. Most importantly, look at the discourse being exchanged in the communities surrounding these media(s), understand the language, and decide whether to interact or move on! It is more that just pulling out the whole fit the square peg in the round hole sales routine with Social Media. Look at the discourse being exchanged and let’s decide if we want to join the community.

If you have some thoughts, please let me know. I am noticing many people from the academic community are reading this blog post. Please share your thoughts!