Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Cross Cultural Opportunity

I will be attending a meeting of pastors and lay people in Minneapolis in the near future. The meeting is for the purpose of discussing responses to the recent changes in the governing documents of the Presbyterian Church USA. These changes provide for the elevation of people, who are openly practicing sinful behavior and refuse to repent, into leadership positions within the church.

So that I might be better acquainted with the discussions surrounding this event I have joined in on several online discussions. These discussions are, quite naturally, dominated by very skilled pastors. I have found myself in a new culture. The culture of the ordained, educated, and career pastor. I am not yet sure what to make of this new culture I am rubbing up against. Being new to the culture I fear misunderstanding what I see and hear and, I fear being misunderstood.

Being in a new culture isn't that remarkable. We all do it everyday. We move from through the cultures of our family's, our work environment, our schools, our communities, etc.on a constant and continuous basis. Sometimes we move into a culture for the first time and we realize that things just aren't exactly what we thought they were. I feel this way when I step out of my predominantly agricultural existence, other professions have their own cultures.

I feel like the proverbial "Bull in a China shop". I tend to say what I think on the strength of my own thinking and support it with nothing but the quality of the thought itself. My words are not measured and weighed for balance and substance against the writings or thoughts of others. They rise and fall on their own merit. This is a stark contrast to the online discussions I have been following. I suddenly find myself in the world of theological academics.

I look forward to this experience because I enjoy people and observing how they think, communicate, and make decisions. This conference will provide many opportunities to interact with people that know nothing of the world of agriculture and where food comes from. Since many of the people I meet will be very gifted and experienced communicators, they are career pastors, I hope to gain alot of understanding of how to approach commuicating agriculture's story to a non-ag world.

Already I am seeing things that contrast with what I am used to in the agricultural world.

Brevity and pointed, undefended, personal opinions seem to be avoided in this culture. I wonder if the defense of personal opinions leads to the death of brevity? Brevity is the stock and trade of the farmer. We are people of few words. Personal opinions are just that, personal. They don't need defending.

Money or finances seems to have a different twist in this world. I haven't quite nailed it down yet. I am used to openly discussing financial arrangements and trying to create the famous "Win Win". Money/finances can be used as a fearful weapon but in agriculture the discussions usually revolve around the good and productive side. In the pastor's world I am hearing most of the discussion revolve around issues of money as weaponry.

Thinking of money as a weapon first and for most is in contrast to hearing the hopefulness and creativity of the farmer when finances are discussed. Farmers see economic danger all the time but it is overcome with visions for bright opportunity just around the corner. If risk is one side of the coin, opportunity is the other, tends to be the mindset in the farmer's heart.

These are just a couple of my observations so far. I am trying to refrain from jumping to conclusions until I am more familiar with the culture.

As a person that loves to study people and how they think, this conference promises to be an interesting time. I would describe it as a "target rich environment" for the attentive observer. It should be fun to learn more about this culture, a non-ag culture, and consider what lessons can be gleaned about communication from it.

Thanks for thinking with me.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Is that Appropriate?

I have been considering the question, "What is appropriate?" allot lately. I have faced this question as my family has been the subject of a lifestyle documentary for ThinkTV and in relating to things that I post on social media.

The question arises in the television arena when I realize that the very same picture can create multiple impressions in the viewer's mind. The evening the camera crew spent several hours filming the front of my home at sunset comes to mind. The camera never moved, only adjustments were changed, and through the camera my home was light a cheerful in a setting sun or quite and dark. The light and breezy image more closely resembled reality that evening. The darker more of the Walton's feeling came through. Would it be appropriate to use the darker image if it fit the producer's story telling needs?

Another shot is of my wife and daughter sitting in the yard studying school work. It is not outside of possible that they might do this but never late in the evening on a pleasant summer day. Is it appropriate to stage a shot like that of something that might happen. It will make good TV I have little doubt.

There are other examples similar to these from our time spent filming. I am completely comfortable with the spontaneous footage, but the staged footage leaves me wondering where the line is between communicating the truth about our life and creating a fantasy that will entertain the audience?

In the social media world the question is, "Is this image something that the general public should see?" or "Is this statement drawing attention to things in agriculture that the general public doesn't need to be reminded of?"

The birth of a pig, to me, is an enormous part of my life but as an image it shows slime and blood. In the purest form it shows that some pigs are born dead (stillborn) or even mummified (partially decomposed).  Dealing with this is what I do. Is it appropriate to show that aspect of my life to the general public?

Is it appropriate to write about the death of animals on the farm? Do I want to remind people that animals sometimes die and have to be disposed of on a farm? Is it better not to point out this obvious fact to the unthinking and let them live in their ignorance? Ignorance is bliss you know.

With the TV questions I guess I sort of shrugged and let it go. I know so little of the editing process and the needs of that profession to do a good job that I probably am not in a position to judge well where the lines should be drawn. The crew is professional and I will defer to their judgement and experience. Perhaps, the end product will suggest I chose poorly.

With the social media questions I am starting to adopt the 4th grade rule. If it something that a 4th grader would learn if they spent a weekend with me then it probably should be shared. I admit somethings must be shared with tact and thought, but the consumer should have access to the information. If I would not be comfortable showing or explaining something to a visiting 4th grader maybe I shouldn't be posting the item at all.

What are your thoughts?

Thanks for thinking with me.