Posted in Gonzaga University, Social Issues

Communication: Understanding or Power

(Note: Those reading this post will hopefully note that it reflects an attitude generally in opposition to my normal one. Not that I think it untrue, or not worth saying, but that it is difficult and painful to paint in these colors for very long. Nor do I think it constructive to do it for long, though often essential to remember now and again.)

One of the things the students in my Master’s in Communication class dislike the most is the comparison of Communication as an exercise in power. We like to think of it as a practice in understanding. Yet recently I have been rubbed in the face with the power aspects of communication.  Those with the power get to decide what your communication means. They even have the power of Humpty Dumpty to pay YOUR words to make  them mean what they want them to mean in their favor.

One of the problems in trying to communicate a subject like this, is you cannot directly refer to any of your examples.  Either a direct reference risks your exposure to those in power and their reinterpretation of your words, since they will doubtless find them reflecting unfavorably upon them, or it is someone or a relationship you care something about and the person will misunderstand the use of your communication with them as trying to be mean instead of being a didactic and teachable moment that increases understanding. In either case, the potential for your words to be effective in communicating empathy and understanding are severely weakened. And it doesn’t matter how close or how far you actually are to those organizations and circles of power, they will mark your words and see what they can do to make you suffer for your attempt at truth and understanding.

This again removes the POWER of the teachable moment, and reduces the situation to the lessons learned by the less powerful about how power uses communication for power instead of understanding.

One of the chief weapons against understanding and in favor of power by those in power is the deconstruction of language, and the obliteration of linguistic and literary tools. I observed a recent example where the use of hyperbole by someone near me — a tool reflecting one’s positive expectations on the intellectual capabilities of the recipient — was painted as the use of extreme and demeaning sarcasm. Never mind how difficult it is to use hyperbole as sarcasm, I saw the inversion of literary definitions achieved and the reprimand painted.

It is dangerous to use hyperbole, irony, simile, metaphors, allusions,  because they connect people’s thoughts to larger themes, and make them explore and question the items around them. None of these are good for those who see communication as power.

An expansive vocabulary is not safe either. I interact inter-culturally every day, and never dumb down my vocabulary to the people I am talking to. A lot of them like the way it expands their own comprehension of English, as well as stimulates them into a greater understanding of both American language and culture. But within organizations it looks like this might be dangerous too — as the use of big words could be considered condescending, no doubt.

I was commenting to a leader in one organization that they had created one team and given them a great project to work on — one really to be proud of — but had misled them on their final intent for the group and the project. The leader tried explaining to me how it was in the best interest of the organization that the team be mislead. If people knew the truth too soon they might choose to bail instead of be committed to the project. My response was that this point of view robbed those team members of the pride they should have had in the work accomplished, and left them with fear in its place. It also telegraphed to them that their leadership did not trust them. Past experience, the leader said, showed the leadership that this lack of trust on the leader’s part was justified. I don’t think either of us was convincing the other one of which lack of trust started this downward spiral of distrust. Yet, my assertion still, is that, no matter where it starts, the important communication fact is that it is a downward spiral, and that stopping it should be more important than finding which point on the circle started it. Yet that would require a relinquishment of power in communication that those in power are not willing to give up.

The interactions are complex, and it is easy to justify keeping people in the dark. Yet I still contend that using the communication to inform and create understanding, and allowing people to make informed decisions, is eminently preferrable, on the whole, to controlling communication to the point that its primary use is that of power.


Posted in Uncategorized

#255: Blessed Assurance

 (Part of a series singing through the hymnbook I grew up with: Great Hymns of the Faith)


Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine!

Heir of salvation, purchase of God, Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.


This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long;

This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long.


Perfect submission, perfect delight! Vision of rapture now burst on my sight;

Angels descending bring from above Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.



Perfect submission – all is at rest, I in my Savior am happy and blest;

Watching and waiting, looking above, Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.



Posted in Family, Social Issues

You don’t want me to focus

I’ve come to the conclusion that, exterior veneer aside, I am not an easy-going sort of person. I can be very focused and intense. I can also obsess. Fortunately I can usually snap out of it.  But my melancholy temperament, welded to an overwhelming positive outlook, leads to something far from Pollyanna-ish, occasionally very overwhelming and undeterrable.

And while I have an innate sense of the fallen nature and potential for evil in each of us, when my overwhelming trust in the general good intent of the people and organizations around me is shattered by some overwhelming act of stupidity and selfishness, the whiplash within my intensity can be a very dangerous and scary place for me (and oft-times the people around me). Fortunately, while staying intense, the dark moments of  my intensity are overwhelmed, in a perhaps sadder-but-wiser rebloom of my positive outlook.

I can be very intense in very positive situations, or negative. Relaxing isn’t an easy exercise for me. Relaxed for me isn’t always relaxed for those around me.

If you classify people like horses, I am a thoroughbred, high strung, not a draft horse, calm and plodding with deep strength. Which isn’t to say I don’t have deep strength. And usually draft horses, with their relaxed strength, live longer.



Posted in Fitness

Fitness Update: Mile sprints

My first race of 2018 is coming up in a very short time: the PR Mile on Jan. 13. So this past week I got out and did a couple of faster mile runs.  If I want to beat my last year’s speed of 6:51 I will have to keep pushing, as I was running an 8:00 and a 7:50.  But it still appears doable.

I also worked on my bicycle miles.  My annual goal is 3000 miles, and I was right on tempo Dec. 1.  Today I still have 168 miles to go. So the next two weeks I have to do a bit more than 10 miles a day.  Still doable again, but tighter to the goal than I wanted at this stage.

Posted in Music

#254: Come to the Savior

 (Part of a series singing through the hymnbook I grew up with: Great Hymns of the Faith)


Come to the Savior, make no delay – Here in His Word He’s shown us the way;

Here in our midst He’s standing today, Tenderly saying, “Come”.



Suffer the children”! O hear His voice, Let ev’ry heart neal forth and rejoice,

And let us freely make Him our choice: Do not delay, but come.



Think once again, He’s with us today – Heed now His blest command, and obey;

Hear now His accents tenderly say,

“Will you, My children, come?”


Posted in Family, Uncategorized

House Repairs: New Roof

As was mentioned in my last installment, the contractor raced against darkness to get the new roof deck up, but didn’t have enough time to get the roof felt on before fall of darkness.

The roofer was tentatively scheduled to arrive the next day (Friday), so the contractor started work on the next step in his process, by default expecting that the roofer would be there too early for him to finish the felt, and so would take care of laying the felt the contractor had purchashed.

But the roofer didn’t show up until Saturday, waiting to hear from the contractor that the roof was ready.  So I contacted the roofer and let him know. And when his crew arrived on Saturday, they fell to the felt with the same alacrity that they had three years ago when his crew put on the new roof for the road-facing section of the house.

The felt was done in no time, and the shingles went up just as fast. Before noon they were done.  Well, almost.  They had brought the amount of shingles based on the measurements the insurance adjuster had used in his calculations, and it was short. so they had to go get another bundle to finish.

But I can still stay, with all the confidence I did three years ago, if you want a roof done well, right, and on time, Cal-Mar Roofing Specialists is the way to go.


Posted in Music

#253: Lord, I’m Coming Home

 (Part of a series singing through the hymnbook I grew up with: Great Hymns of the Faith)


I’ve wandered far away from God – Now I’m coming home;

The paths of sin too long I’ve trod – Lord I’m coming home.


Coming home, coming home, Nevermore to roam;

Open now Thine arms of love – Lord I’ coming home.


I’ve wasted many precious years – Now I’m coming home;

I now repent with bitter tears – Lord, I’m coming home.



I’ve tired of sin and straying, Lord — Now I’m coming home;

I’ll trust Thy love, believe Thy word – Lord, I’m coming home.



My soul is sick, my heart is sore – Now I’m coming home;

My strength renew, my hope restore – Lord, I’m coming home.