Writer, Church leader, Eccentric Nut, Marketer

I'm Church Leader, Writer, Speaker, Marketer, Kindness Project Founder, Broadcaster and Superhero. But most important I'm a Husband, Father and a worshiper of Jesus.

28 November 2013

Communicating for a "bigger reality"

I’m a Gen Xer.  In my stand up comedy routine I often say, “there isn’t anything that a Gen Xer hates more than everything.”  And while I was on the tail end of this demographic, I embodied it.  I didn’t care much for systems that seemed to eschew reality in place of pablum niceties.  And where I sensed it, as a youth, I attacked.  I was a prank phone caller.  Not your run-of-the-mill, “Is your refrigerator running” pranks either.  In fact, prank didn’t describe it whatsoever.

I would develop characters who pretended to be drug addicted immigrants on the street in attempts manipulate and gain the sympathies and help of the call recipient.  There were characters designed to get neighbours car’s towed or trees chopped down... successfully. There were real life classmates who I’d study the speech patterns of and call others I knew.  These calls were “long cons” designed to extract deep information that I’d be able to use at opportune times.  And I could do it… each time.  I could pull whatever I wanted from others.  

I would chart and graph demographics.  By the end of a character’s run, I’d be able to manipulate each conversation based on an analysis of who I was speaking to. I was confident in my ability to make others do or feel exactly what I’d want them to.  I knew what they needed to hear to feel safe and I knew how to pull out of them. This was in elementary school.  It increased in high school.  I would study people, their patterns and their weaknesses.  I would script language and analyse the flow of human life to be able to maximise my verbal deconstructions.  I would use language to destroy others… based on a deep insecurity.  It gave me power.

Obviously… this was HORRIBLY wrong and something that God has dealt with in my life.  But as long as I’ve been “Dave” I’ve had an acute awareness and understanding at how language, conversation and communication could change scenarios.  

In the book "Juice... the power of Conversation" Brady Wilson uses the 1+1 = 5 equation to show the superpower that analysed and strategic speech/conversations have. I would ALSO submit that 1+1 = -5 as well.  The point being that the result of interactions is based on the motivations, as well as the techniques, of the conversation.

In Juice, Wilson shares the stat that, “When North Americans are trying to get to understanding, 66% of them push, 23% acquiesce and only 10% pull”  This shows the reason why these pull techniques or learned conversation has power.  Because few THINK about why they speak, not only BEFORE they speak.  

It’s one of the reasons why, while I agree with much this book teaches, it itself needs to be qualified Because SOME “techniques” can simply be used to “dance around” the minds of the simplistic person.  And truthfully, I’ve seen conversation “techniques” often be used as parlour tricks and a verbal mask. Sometimes they are used as a cover for personal insecurities and a fear of simply sharing from the heart.  I’ve been there.  Sometimes I’ve found great freedom in forgoing these techniques and simply speaking to another human heart honestly without the exposed (and buried) motivation of extraction and moving another in your desired direction. They can feel like Jedi mind tricks and sometimes, just like Obi Wan Kenobi found out, those also strong in the force notice them and find it insulting.

Juice talks about “pulling a bigger reality” out of conversation.  A while back I conducted an analysis of of the “bigger reality” purposes of communication written in the style of a scientific experiment. Because there must be a grander purpose of the communication conflict we are all tasked to work out in life.

Hypothesis: The ultimate purpose of communication is truth in peace.

The elements:
  • Communication- The exchange of thoughts, messages, or information, as by speech, signals, writing, or behaviour
  • Truth-Conformity to fact or actuality
  • Peace-Freedom from quarrels and disagreement; harmonious relations
  • Understanding- A reconciliation of differences; a state of agreement

Principally: In it's home... truth is absolute. On earth... truth can only be fully exposed, actualised and understood via the collective. Peace presupposes two or more unique parties and implies the intentional establishment of unity between them. Communication is the vehicle. Understanding truth is the equaliser. Peace is the result.

Biblically: Genesis 11 ushered us into the Era of the modern burden of communication. It began with man all speaking one language and being very powerful. Man was gettin’ somewhere so they built a tower to make sure everyone knew they were great. God said in verses 6-9

"One people, one language; why, this is only a first step. No telling what they'll come up with next—they'll stop at nothing! Come, we'll go down and garble their speech so they won't understand each other." Then God scattered them from there all over the world. And they had to quit building the city. That's how it came to be called Babel, because there God turned their language into "babble." From there God scattered them all over the world.

When communication was easy... it was so powerful that it corrupted us. We used it for selfish gain instead of the exposition of truth which, if collectively embraced, would have led to peace. Eventually when the New Testament church was being established, Paul explained how different we all are. Yet he still used "unity speak" in which he called us a house of living stones... called to live together in unity...functioning beautifully as one body. A pretty picture yes, but it does come with a God-ordained tension in it's outplaying, requiring us to communicate to achieve the goal.

On the streets: I disagree with Marshall McLuhan's assertion that "the medium is the message". Principally, it's an acceptance of the weak mind of man... and it's inability to discern between the pedestrian (Medium) and true authority (Message). It's true that communication DOES often play out this way... but "the medium is the message" is cynical, hopeless and gives undue weight to variables. The ultimate purpose of the communication is loftier.

The "greater-good" merits of the social media revolution are still very much in question, But never has how a society communicates with each other changed so rapidly and fundamentally... while being so reliant on the medium.

We've all seen it used to find truth and bring peace just as many times as we've seen a social revolution medium be a detrimental. What makes the difference is the intention... not the medium. When some ignorantly sits in a meeting (two or more unique parties who differ, coming together in an attempt come to a consensus) and texts someone else... communication IS happening... just not the optimal kind. The texter is saying, "I don't care about discovering the truth in this moment with you or coming to any consensus". It has nothing to do with their cell phone. It has to do with whether or not the 2 parties use what ever medium is required to make the message happen and communication WORK. It takes work, focus and intention to allow communication to be vehicle it was designed to be.

Conclusion: We are always communicating because we HAVE to, to find the truth and unity we need to be able to achieve maximally in life. We must intentionally choose to beneficially communicate with each other as it is the vehicle that leads to freedom and peace.

In Juice, Wilson says, “You may well be thinking, ‘My day is way too packed to do all this pull conversation stuff.  It takes too long. I have no choice but to push’” and he’s right.  Most likely are thinking that.  And most likely will continue to think that… because most (sadly) won’t think about it and will react viscerally to stimuli.  

But as for those who work to understand human function and the interaction of the species we need to:

  1. Use PULL conversations to open up space for “truth in peace”
  2. Master mediums to put pull principles into practise wherever (and HOWEVER) people are. We need to do it as a genuine person, not just a regurgitation of principles (to the Jew be the Jew, to Greek be a Greek)
  3. Be vigilant with our motivation for communication.  

Luke 6:45 (AMP)
The upright (honourable, intrinsically good) man out of the good treasure [stored] in his heart produces what is upright (honourable and intrinsically good), and the evil man out of the evil storehouse brings forth that which is depraved (wicked and intrinsically evil); for out of the abundance (overflow) of the heart his mouth speaks.

"But you're not invited"

I've been mesmerized by Field of Dreams since I first watched it in 1989.  I've chewed it through six ways from Sunday, made an analysis of it into a thesis and even bought a brown leather jacket because of Ray Kinsella. But most importantly it became my ground-floor for what living by faith and obedience looked like.  Even when it seems nuts to.  

One of it's deepest "interacting with a higher, wiser power" moments came near the end where Shoeless Joe Jackson invites Terrance Mann... out.  Out into the mysterious cornfield to experience the great beyond.  He eagerly accepts the offer while Ray starts asking why HE doesn't get to go.  I mean... it was HIS step of faith that created this WHOLE scenario in the first place.  Watch:

When Shoeless Joe tells Ray that he's not invited into what he assumes is HIS dream, he begins asking... why.  It's the same why that I remember my college roomate asking me about why I was engaged and he wasn't.  It didn't seem fair that I was invited to the party and he wasn't.  It's the same why that I know some friends ask about why they seemingly haven't found their "ministry" while others seemingly have. We all seem to want to know... why.  And the answer is RARELY plain to see. All Shoeless Joe says is , "I think you'd better stay here Ray" with a gleam in his eye.  Then this happens:

It's... perfect. Ray was not invited to go "out" because Shoeless Joe had something more... UNIQUELY RAY for him. I often think of God in this way.  He writes our stories and fleshes out our characters.  Sometimes He invites us into scenes, scenarios and situations.  Sometimes he doesn't. Sometimes He shapes us instead.  Sometimes he tells us to mow down a cornfield to build a baseball field and demands immediate action.  Sometimes he makes us stare out at it all winter... and wait in faith.  ACTIVELY waiting in faith.

We have a saying around Freedom House that "Obedience IS success."  We must remember that while asking why is an acceptable thing, we're not always going to get the answers we want... IF we get an answer at all.  But if we trust in the God who says...

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'"

... then we need to be confident that obedience, faith and trust today will lead to a perfectly designed "UNIQUELY RAY moment" ... only for you. 

11 November 2013

The Cadet who went BACK to the front line

Today was a cold, wet, miserable day in Brantford.  It was the kind of day that many a soldier would have endured many times, in many less appealing locales than a Southern Ontario park overlooking a river whilst soup cooked at the armory across the road.

In fact, "Honor Guards" stood watch at our local cenotaph throughout the night in preparation for today's "Act of Remembrance."  They stood cold and alone in the dark so nobody could try any funny business.  They were there to show honor... and ensure that maximum honor could be shown in the morning.  To honor, stay sharp and stand guard when you don't see any assailants takes faith.  But chosen honor does that in a man.

I love watching soldiers march as one like the bewitching syncretism of fine clockwork. But seeing them function as one is even more beautiful. In the lower right corner of the above picture, you'll see two members of Brantford's Royal Canadian Sea Cadets.  Before today's ceremony the young'un on the right, positioned in the front row, began to cry.  Watching my own daughter weep on my lap watching WWII clips on YouTube the day previous, followed by a funeral of a close friend who died tragically at the age of 31... I know that the possible reasons were plentiful.  But there was a job to do.

I observed from behind as the leader beckoned the young Cadet the back lines to stand beside her. The well-formed lines opened systematically and enveloped the emotional cadet backward.  They then reformed seamlessly without her. She was firmly but compassionately given a moment to regroup and regain breath.  Leaving the post was clearly not an option. I'm sure it was a temptation through. Even if it was just a ceremony in a cold, wet Brantford November... this soldier was not leaving the battle.  It was not long before the cadet was returned to the front line and bravely stood honorably.

Too few of us learn to stand with honor, chin up, upper lip vigilantly stiff through adversity.

There was a song called "Remembrance" sung that contained a lyric that's captured my imagination tonight. It said:

"Show us, O Father, how we best can serve
A world to live by faith and not by nerve" 

I'm not sure actually which way 'nerve' was meant to be taken, but there is a lesson in both.

  1. We should never serve our world via the thin, sensitive parts of ourselves where a minor exterior inconvenience can lead to involuntary human spasms. We'd never be able to stand guard through the night. And our cities NEED people who will stand strong on the cold days for others.
  2. We also should never trust completely in our own ability to stand courageously and definitely through the long nights.  Even the strongest of men need faith to fully empower them to know WHY they are standing and the reminder that they CAN keep it up.

I was thrilled to reacquaint myself with Brantford's Corporal Ken Galbraith, whom I went to elementary school with and today proudly SERVES with honor.  I salute him and our servicemen at home and abroad today.  Today... good men and women of Brantford... let us serve our city and neighbors with courage, fortitude, enduring consistency... and honor.

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