Who Needs You to Go to College?

Image sourced from Microsoft Online.
Most posts here are about advertising, either directly or indirectly. This specific emphasis falls within a larger category of seeing work - all work (sans prostitution and the like which isn't work but some distorted derivative) - as an act of service to others and honor to God. In this broader vein, I want to highlight two items this morning, both containing application points that will hopefully encourage you in the work you do.

Item #1

The first is from Marcus Goodyear, senior editor at the TheHighCalling.org, published poet (you'll see why I mention this) and a thoughtful influencer on the topic of service/honor-based work. His recent blog entry is called Work Isn't Supposed to Be Fun Anyway and here's a teaser:

As a kid I fantasized about traveling to space. Even recently, I was thinking about the Mir space station pictured above. The world needs me in space at the Mir station, I might delude myself. I definitely have a strong desire to go there. I could even imagine that I have talents and gifts that would justify putting me atop one million pounds of rocket fuel and blasting me toward Mir at 29,000 mph.

That’s roughly 28,965 mph over the speed limit in my neighborhood, by the way.

Alas, I do not have a high calling to join the crew of the Mir space station. That is a personal fantasy, not a calling. (Read the rest of his post here.)

Item #2

The second item is by yours truly, and it comes from a growing conviction that we're asking the wrong question about higher education. It isn't logically or practically possible to ask this wrong question, though we do it as consumers and we do it often. So I'm asking a different question, one that is pertinent whether you are in college, going to college or 20 years out. Here is a teaser for Who Needs You to Go to College?:

The Higher Education Research Institute’s Research Brief for the 2010 Freshmen Survey states, “Perhaps most significantly, a large percentage increase (from 66.2% in 2007 to 72.7% in 2010) occurred in students’ views that ‘The chief benefit of college is that it increases one’s earning power.’”

I understand this freshmen view financially. But to what end is it aimed? Work is not separate from community, either in the doing of it or in what it produces. A little creative (and Biblical) analysis will see that education – despite its personal benefits – is ultimately other-centered. (Read the rest of this post here.)

Happy reading.


Dying Sailors and a Valuable Lesson for Employees

The Stormy Sea by Gustave Courbet
The first Outward Bound school opened in 1941 for a reason that I think has as much validity now as it did then. Listen to what was happening to WWII sailors:
"Lawrence Holt, President of the steamship company Blue Funnel Line...was greatly disturbed about the number of young sailors who were losing their lives in the service of his company. Battles at sea with Nazi submarines often resulted in sailors having to abandon ship."
"Time and time again Holt noticed that older sailors made up the greatest proportion of survivors." 
"Young men, though often more physically able, seemed to be lost because they lacked the sheer will to withstand the ordeals of ocean travel by lifeboat or raft." (From The Role of the Instructor, by Ken Kalisch)
This fascinates me. One would think physical prowess and youthful drive lead to success, but it turns out they don't. And I'm not sure these characteristics succeed in the pursuit of challenging careers either.

I spent last weekend with thousands of students who sat in session after session learning how the Christian faith, in particular, can inform work. These young attendees weren't learning how to proselytize or hang religious calendars in their cubicles. Instead, they were learning how to study various trades and career paths and the systems that shape and run them; how to orient their vocational vision toward addressing and correcting what's broken in those careers and using the careers to address and correct what is broken on the client end; and how to surrender to a divine call that honors God in the way the work gets done.

In practical speech, it works like this: As Jesus healed lepers, today's engineers protect travelers. As Jesus gave to the poor, today's shoe salesmen promote generosity. As Jesus spread his message with humility and truth, today's advertisers market honestly and with compassion.  

Or that's the way it's supposed to be. Perhaps I should have said, "Sometimes advertisers..." or "Advertisers try to market...." Advertising is one of those careers where the young are often, as we might say, lost because they lack the sheer will to withstand the ordeals of the industry.

I say this as an outsider, and to be fair, I'm pretty sure I would get lost if advertising were my career. Challenges face new employees in every field but advertisers especially seem unusually susceptible to compromising situations. The intersection of mass media, consumer wants and relative anonymity (Can you name anyone who has made a Super Bowl commercial?) creates enormous pressure to do whatever the boss/client demands, even if it makes no sense restoratively. And yet. And yet, it is no less a worthy vocation.

In tougher fields - like advertising - what employees need is a way to build character and resilience and wisdom to buck the broken systems and sustain new, neighbor-loving approaches. I don't know whether that looks like a program or mentorship or simply a community of stalwart encouragers, but if it works anything like wilderness experiences do, then a combination of duress and success is needed. Conscience-squeezing situations, risk, biblical formation, courageous stands, creative alternatives, and at least occasional victories are important elements that increase the survival rate of novitiates.

I've been both the young sailor and the old sailor and and I've drowned a few times. Mostly because in my youth I lacked the sheer will to withstand the ordeals of [fill in the blank].


Finding grace at Intellicast

Nothing like a lesson drawn from a weather website. It seemed extra cold this year before winter even struck officially on December 21. The girls and I were bundling outside in day after day teen temperatures and having to talk loudly over the old house register as it drew the cold from our bones and warmed it in the new furnace. The porch thermometer gave the daily news, but how cold was it supposed to be? I clicked on Historic Averages and this is what I saw:

Clearly, we were off. I looked at the next two months to get an idea about how to brace ourselves, and the observation had an interesting affect on me. Try it. Pick the Average High column above and scan down through the days, continuing through the same column below in January and February.

The extremes are smoothed out. Just a one degree drop every few days, and another single degree drop a few days later, and then another, until an uneventful (though slightly extended) non-catastrophic bottom in January turns casually upward again, one degree every few days toward warmth. I can't say why this obvious pattern surprised me (It is a chart about averages, after all), but it did. Maybe it's because 2010 was so personally jagged. Emotionally high highs and low lows with enough intensity to keep me looking myopically at daily temperatures instead of historic averages. I know the sayings, "This, too, shall pass" and "What goes around comes around." In the middle of it all, however, you just see what immediately faces you.

As extremes go, this Friday, February 18, will be 61 degrees. And so this morning I remembered Dorothy Bass describing how the "recurring patterns of longing and fulfillment, of repentance and grace, encircle us again and again.... Over time, the round years accumulate into a thick line, and we find that we have been caught up in the story of God" (Receiving the Day). 

I didn't like 2010 in the way that I don't like 15 degrees and biting wind. Yet I love 2010 because this thickening line is my line, and, over the long, grace-filled haul, it really isn't all that jagged.   

Get a smoothed out perspective for your town at Intellicast.


365.07 buttloads of storage space: We have a problem.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
According to Wikipedia, a buttload is "an old English unit of wine casks, holding two hogsheads.... Historically, a hogshead varied in size, but today in the United States is most commonly 63 U.S. gallons...so a butt is now 126 U.S. gallons."

Let's assume for a moment that I had done my fact-checking and it turns out that "buttload" exists as a unit of measurement. This would have three effects:

  • First, I could respectfully use a term I confess to have enjoyed for many years among playful peers. 
  • Second, because I care about accuracy, I would be required to perform calculations prior to using the term, as in the case of describing how many ticket holders will occupy the seats at the upcoming Super Bowl. No longer could I explete, "Wow! That's a buttload of people!" Instead, I would deliver a more refined, "My, that seems to be approximately 793.65 buttloads of fans."
  • Third (and now I come to the point of this post), I could recognize, with both the decency and accuracy of the first two points, that we are in a buttload of trouble. To be precise, we are in 365.07 buttloads of trouble. This is the number that goes into 46,000, which is, according to the Good Housekeeping magazine I found open on our kitchen table earlier this afternoon, "the number of U.S. self-storage facilities...."
Of course people need storage units for various and legitimate reasons. However, the quote goes on to say that this number is "up more than 200 percent since the mid-1990s." Considering that the average new home size in the U.S. was 2,438 square feet in 2010, compared to a meager 1,500 square feet in 1973, one must wonder what, in the name of stewardship, we are doing to be defined by this increase.


I know what I've been doing, and I realized it this summer when we moved out of our apartment. The living space took our pack of friends two hours to empty. The attic, basement and garage, six. We're still embarrassed.

We'll be selling and giving away a buttload of our stuff this summer. And I mean that in the vulgar sense.


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