“Love’s Austere and Lonely Offices”

This evening, I’ve been reflecting on the last two lines of the poem “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden. The character in the poem is an adult looking back at the cold winter mornings of youth, recognizing the lack of gratitude shown towards the family patriarch in what the author calls a house of “chronic angers.” The poem concludes with the lines:

“What did I know, what did I know of Love’s austere and lonely offices?”

The line “Love’s austere and lonely offices” is so pathetically true. Love is simple in nature yet there is a tendency to make it something glamorous, something beyond its scope. Something it cannot and should not be. At times, love is austere; it is stern and unadorned. It is silent, hidden behind the scenes.

A friend edits the ending of every fairy tales she reads to her children, adding; “and they worked really hard on their marriage, and lived happily ever after.” She is opening their imaginations to the story between the pages. The real life story of the silent heroes we call mom and dad.

For a child, love’s lonely office includes not understanding why “no” and “not now” mean “I love you.”

For a married couple love’s “lonely offices” are they places they stand without regard to personal pleasure. Because of love, friends and extended family never come first. Because of love, time and resources are sacrificed for things that hold little interest. Because of love, both will fret over whether or not they have done the right thing.

It is love that allows them to disagree passionately without fear that an opinion held too strongly will break them apart. It is love that allows conflict and love that keeps all other opportunities for romantic interest out of sight and out of mind.

Love’s eye is not blind. It is selective. It weighs truth in the balance and understands that no collection of flaws and quirks are superior to the man, woman, or child they have chosen.

Certainly “love’s austere and lonely offices” are not the only offices held in marriage, but they are the sacrificial offices required to keep the flame of love’s temple alive.

The Value of a Whisper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can the whisper still tame the lion? If everything is loud, nothing is.

 

Young children flinch at loud noises, but in modern society they soon learn to endure and then to enjoy excessive decibels. Loud noise, however, prevents the development of discriminative refinement. Our civilization shouts so loud that the value of a whisper is forgotten.

Continuous background noise – from the radio or television, for example – discourages the development of perception and discrimination. Something that is there the whole time no longer draws proper attention: it dulls; it becomes a kind of drug; it floats us sluggishly along. It is like a stream of dirty lukewarm water – a kind of inferior bath taken disgustingly in common. Whatever encourages our inattention diminishes our ability to make wise choices because, of all the things that are required to make wise choices, a delicate and sensitive attention is the most important.”

Arthur Henry King – Arm the Children, BYU Studies 1998

“The Official Sponsor of Birthdays”

morebirthdays_blogbadge3The American Cancer Society has branded its self, in part, as “The Official Sponsor of Birthdays.”  Here at the National Home Office in Atlanta, Georgia we’ve known this was coming since December 2008 and many of us have anxiously awaited this launch with sealed lips. A new website, morebirthdays.com, went live yesterday and a few new ads were uploaded to YouTube.


So what is all of this about? For some people birthdays are a struggle. I have a family member who has been celebrating her 39th birthday for at least 15 years. Despite the challenges of aging, as we morph into something far different than a twenty year old body, I hope we can all agree that birthdays are a good thing. A very good thing. A birthday means you’re here. This may appear trivial, it’s no revelation, and I’m not saying anything new. What is important to know is that there is an organization that exists to ensure that you and I and everyone else continue to live healthily lives year after year.


Our vision is a world free of cancer. I’ve never worked for an organization that is as focused and driven to fulfill its mission than the American Cancer Society. From the epidemiologist here in Atlanta to our National Cancer Information Center in Austin, Texas the commitment to help people stay well and get well, by finding cures and fighting back is at the heart of everything we do. The same can be said for the volunteers and employees I’ve worked with across the nation. Their commitment is tangible.


I have found no other organization with the resources, knowledge, and skill that can compare to the American Cancer Society in this field of work. As a fully entrenched social networker I’ve been please to see that the Society has kept up with the new media of a web 2.0 world.  We’ve integrated ourselves with Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and Second Life and we will continue to reach out where ever people are to share our resources and our message of hope.


Our sister organization The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) in Washington, D.C. has been successful working with lawmakers to fight against Big Tobacco in the United States. It was no coincidence that in his February 24, 2009 address to Congress President Obama called for health care reform to include a “new effort to conquer a disease that has touched the life of nearly every American by seeking a cure for cancer in our time” (April is National Cancer Control Month, by the way).


Nor is it a coincidence that a Bill was passed by the US House of Representatives granting the “Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate the manufacturing, marketing and sale of tobacco products”. These things don’t happen without the voice and support of the people, and many organizations are coming together to ensure that our voice, your voice, is heard.


Living a life free of cancer is something for everyone to celebrate. Eleven million cancer survivors are celebrating birthdays because of our progress. Countless others have avoided cancer for the same reasons. As the old saying goes “knowledge is power.” Knowing how to get well and stay well is priceless.


So… Now that my lunch hour is coming to an end, it’s time for me to get back to work.

Presentation Review Form

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In 1996 I attended a training course presented by Franklin Quest (Now FranklinCovey) called “Presentation Advantage.” In addition to the course workbook, the handouts included a Presentation Review form that is no longer available. The form was designed to guide the reviewer in rating the presenter’s over all design and delivery in 20 categories.

With FranklinCovey’s permission I have recreated a modified version of the form, attributed the copyright to Franklin Quest, and made it available for download in two formats. While this version of the form is free, if the current course is anything like the one I attended in 96′, I highly recommend attending.

PDF

Word

 

When using this form both the presenter and reviewer must be committed to accepting the brutal facts. A large portion of the form could be used by music reviewers when rating concerts or by musicians unfamiliar with the importance of on stage delivery. Everyone can improve when they are open to outside feedback.

 

However you choose to use this form, I wish you the best in improving your act.  

The Great Questions We Carry

A defective four leaf clover.

Each year at Christmas my grandfather gives everyone in the family a small hand held puzzle. Often these puzzles are clear cubes containing metal balls and rings that must be aligned to complete a design. Most of the time I can see what I think the outcome should be, yet the challenge is finding the solution before I lose interest.

The wisdom in these little puzzles is clear. They parallel the individual and collective questions we all carry. Some are trivial and amusing, easily put down and picked up again. Others are larger and require more time and effort to solve. After a little fiddling these larger puzzles are often shelved in hopes that “some day” we’ll have time to spread out all the pieces and restore order to the chaos.

We seem to reserve a special place for the truly great questions and we keep them within constant reach. These are the questions of life that won’t let go. They demand our attention.

At times I’ve attempted to force pieces together that don’t belong. Particularly the beautiful pieces that seem so good together. Fabricating solutions in ignorance or accepting answers that are comfortable, but not accurate.

While there are clearly right and wrong choices, there is a wide spectrum of individual solutions within those bounds. Yet the constants, the rules that apply across that spectrum, can be difficult to identify independently. Many of life’s variables are in constant flux. We rarely get a bird’s eye view of the labyrinth, and few of life’s puzzles are cut as evenly as factory made cardboard and plastic.

Fortunately, when we find solutions we share them. Small and simple things can be the greatest gifts. Answers to long sought questions can be the key to gaining mountain top perspective on the dark valley of our lives. Sometimes answers come like a flood and other times in painfully slow drips.

The key is having a desire to search for solutions. To believe the answer exists and to keep working to discover answers that are equal to the questions.

What does this have to do with education and training? Everything.

Facebook vs. MySpace and Breaking the Sex Barrier

In full discloser, I’m a Facebook fan. For me there is something a bit dark about MySpace, yet I have an account with both. Where do others stand in this battle between these two social networking giants?

According to Google Trends Facebook passed MySpace in the number of Google searches in the first quarter of 2008 and has continued to rise surpassing YouTube searches in the final weeks of 2008.

facebook_vs_myspace

So what is “the sex barrier” and how does it relate? The Sex barrier is represented by the green line in the second graft. If you have more people googling for your product than are googling the word “sex”, you’ve broken passed the sex barrier. Searches for the word “YouTube” passed the word “sex” in the first quarter of 2007, searches for “Facebook” passed it in the second quarter of 2008. MySpace has yet to break the barrier.

sexbarrier

The word Obama did it briefly in November 2008. More people world wide, according to Google, were looking up stories about Obama winning the U.S. Presidential election than were searching for sex related stories, products, etc. However searches for sex did not decrease as a result of the Obama searches. I’m not sure what this data indicates other than marketers have done an excellent job of selling sexuality online. This shouldn’t be a surprise.


The next barrier to pass is the word “free”. In Google searches the word “sex” is no where close to the word “free”. People want free stuff. However, in 2008 both YouTube and Facebook surpassed the magical word “free”.


Compared to these four words; free, YouTube, sex, and Facebook, searches for words like god, war, church, health, cancer, bush, give, and beer hardly register (Sadly, more people and googling for “beer” online than “peace”, but not by much).


So what does all this mean? Several things. First, since I’ve included the words sex and free in this post several times, I will probably get a number of online visits from people who won’t find what they are looking for. Second, using Google Trends is great for getting a ball park idea of search terms people are using. And third, I still like Facebook better than MySpace and I recommend it to everyone, unless you’re a musician. If you are a musician or a singer/songwriter use both. Searches for “MySpace” passed searches for “Music” in mid 2006 and it doesn’t look like it will to change anytime soon. For music, MySpace is on top.

The Duty of Transparency

o_brawley

This morning I attended the annual all staff meeting at the American Cancer Society National Home Office in Atlanta, GA. Out of all the interesting information that was shared this morning Dr. Otis W. Brawley, our Chief Medical Officer, comments were the most profound:


When dealing with very complicated things our obligation to the American people is to say what is known, what is not known, and what is believed, and label things accordingly.

How much better would we be as a nation and as individuals if we could be as forthright to recognize and admit what is known, what is not known, what is believed, and label them accordingly in all aspects of life.