Posts Tagged ‘recognition’

From the Editor’s Perch…

February 5, 2014

Editor: This seems a timely moment for this thought.




“While popularity is a trait often ascribed to an individual, it is an inherently social phenomenon and thus can only be understood in the context of groups of people.”  – Wikipedia


How much popularity is a single person due?  How much attention should one person presume to deserve: below which she/he can feel rightly aggrieved, and above which he/she should feel blessed?

Tough questions, whose answer comes in fits and drabs, “Yes”’s  and “No”’s throughout  – and for the rest of – one’s life.

According to Wikipedia some of the personal traits which are correlated with popularity are attractiveness, competence, and a high level of aggression.  Social status is seen as a gauge of popularity.  And “social influence plays a large role in determining what is popular and what is not through an information cascade. Independent of personal information, the information cascade acts as a strong influence, causing individuals to imitate the actions of others, whether or not they are in agreement. When downloading music, people don’t necessarily decide for themselves what exact song to buy. Instead, they look at the list of most downloaded songs and decide to get those same top songs.”

The reality is -as in the quote above – that popularity is much more a function of what the crowd desires than what the person is.  Walt Whitman probably said it best: “”To have great poets you must have great audiences, too.”  And books could, and have, been written about what inflames the crowd – with all sorts of caveats and contradictory information tossed in.

Truly, our desires are a lot like that girl with a make-up kit, and popularity is the beholder who fancies that girl’s wiles!  Without a lot of glandular-ridden men, a woman’s charms go for naught.  Beauty needs those construction workers on their lunch break in order to shine.   In fact, we might describe art as the thing which would cause a person to act… which would fashion that overwhelming desire from within the crowd.

Put this way, the popularity we are due, is due to the popularity we create in an audience we can’t know.  And as a personal counselor once noted, “most people listen autobiographically”.  So in a way, popularity is like a charmed circle, and one is either on the inside – or on the outs.  And that is the popularity you are due.


This information is sometimes best taken with a drink.  And often is.  Ha!

So.  Perhaps a better question to ask might be, “How much audience does a person need?”


Well, here again, it can depend.  Say you’re an entertainer.  A large amount of paying audience is required, or you can’t pay your bills.  Your career ends.  Say you’re a business person.  You need a certain amount of traffic in order to move your product, or you can’t meet your overhead.  Your career ends.  Say you’re in a marriage where you need a certain amount of attention, or your partner does.  Or the marriage ends.  So here it is.  We probably all need just as much attention as is required to survive in the social net in which we swing.  We need all of the attention we want.  Which is why we want it.  And when we can stop needing attention, we’re fulfilled, and can probably feel that we have – at least the necessary  minimum – of all of the attention that we are due.  ..Whew!

But, how do we get all of the attention we want?

A Buddhist might say that the answer is simple: we decrease the amount of attention we want, until the amount we have is sufficient.  That is, if nobody acknowledges you, treat this as a blessing! and a chance to live as unrestricted and freely as you would.  Enjoy “the sun in the morning, and the moon at night”.  Focus on the joys of pet ownership.  Buy a fish, or go over the top and swim with the dolphins, if you will.

On the other hand, a Christian might say, that we are urged by the Lord to go out and proselytize of His blessings; that this is our number one reason for being.  Or as Robert Jensen has put it, “Christians serve a chatty God”.  “…a God who creates by word, redeems by an incarnate Word, whose Spirit delivers long, complicated texts to a community whose assemblies are full of words,”as Peter J. Leithart in “First Things”, puts it.  And so, a Christian must go out the door each morning and find a way to generate audience – to ‘knock the scales’ from people’s eyes!  This latter can be the tougher road taken, as the Lord’s work is never done, and people can be especially hard to button-hole.

What to do?

A lot of people take the middle road – and enjoy talking to ever so many people about the delights of life – as they walk their dog.


Photos from Google Images and Carl Nelson

From the Editor’s Perch

May 20, 2013
Am I not speaking English?

Am I not speaking English?

Why You May Not Be Understood

“…actors learn sooner than most of us that in the genre known as real life, you have to present yourself, or play the part, if you want to be understood.”

  – David Thompson, the New Republic

Have you ever had someone say, “I can’t understand you.” and thought indignantly, ‘Well, if I were paying as little attention to what I am saying as you are – I would probably have trouble understanding whatever it is I am saying, myself!’

There is much more to be understood than being clear.  And there is much more to being interesting than being insightful.  And I can’t think of when I have been more struck by an observation, that by the one above, made recently by a movie critic, quite in passing.

The ramifications of the quote above are boggling, really, if you are anything like me, and have struggled with this difficulty your entire life.  What it seems to be saying, besides being like a trail marker pointing in innumerable fascinating directions, is that in order for people to understand you, you must have a personae or be in some manner group-identifiable.  That is, it’s not that you might be difficult to understand, in as much as you are difficult to ‘locate’.  In other words, there is much more to be understood than being clear.  And there is much more to being interesting than being insightful.  (Yes!  This is worth repeating.) To be understood, you must be locate-able in a meshwork of other understandings the object of your conversation possesses.

We all have experienced the all too common human habit to pigeonhole, which I suppose would be the corollary to the above observation.  We often hesitate to fully speak our minds, utter certain words, or even speak a small portion of our minds out of fear of being ‘pigeonholed’.  That is, being tossed into a group with whom we feel little in common or share little sympathy, merely because we both have made the same gaffe.  Forever after we fear (probably correctly) that, whoever it is has heard the gaffe will lump us either with this or that group, no matter.

Probably nowhere is the truth of the above critic’s observation more apparent than when trying to explain something to a teenager.  If you are a person of great estimation to the teenager, or are an important figure in a group of some estimation to a teenager, then whatever you say has a good chance of being warmly embraced as the God’s Truth whether it is absolute gibberish, or came spinning hot off old Beelzebub’s tongue.  However, if you are either a person or grouped with persons who the teenage has very little interest in being associated with (e.g. parents) then you will be hard pressed to convince them even that 1 plus 1 equals 2.  Let alone that speeding causes accidents; or that studying is a good way to prepare for exams, or that if they don’t get too bed on time at night, then in the morning they’ll be tired.

I imagine that the human mind, must deal with rather complex notions in much the same manner my computer handles my digitalized photos.  Each photo carries within its bit-package metadata, which explain just what it is and where it is located.  Without the metadata, my computer cannot ‘find’ my photograph.  And if my computer cannot locate my photograph, then it cannot realize my photograph.  This must be something like how the human mind works.  A person cannot realize your thought, until they can locate it.

So what happens to thoughts that are neither group attachable, or come without personae to their metadata?  Do they drift about until the common wisdom catches up with them?  I would guess this is very much the case.  As an example I would suggest the case of Einstein’s friend, the Mathematician Kurt Godel, who is considered “with Aristotle and Frege as one of the most significant logicians in human history.” – Wikipedia

Godel described himself as “anti-charismatic”.    Though quite accomplished, he was a figure of little influence among the early circle of thinkers he frequented in old Vienna.  Though he voiced much of what would later make him famous, little note was taken of it at the time – even among the very people vitally concerned and asking the very questions (over and over) he was softly voicing the answers to.

Photo pulled from Google Images

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