How do you think?

Have you ever thought about how you think about things? Is your stream of conscious thought in the style of a documentary? Do you narrate events in your life like a detective in a film noir piece? Or does your thinking mirror a monologue to the camera like those annoying spots in Malcolm in the Middle?

Trolling through the links on Dan’s blog I found myself at the home of Michael Jensen’s blog. He’s one of the famous Sydney Anglican Jensen tribe. He’s doing some sort of study in England – you can find it if you like, but I can’t be bothered searching for the link. He posted an entry on viewing life as a stream of narrative. He’s a pretty smart guy. I didn’t really read all that much but it got me thinking about thinking and how I frame my thoughts. I think my stream of thoughts often flows like a stream of narrative – I do things in time and space, interacting with other characters and these interactions lead to outcomes – problems are resolved, conflicts arise… and my thinking reflects that. I think about how to solve things – and the voice in my head (which I guess is consciousness not some weird psychological condition) follows the narrative, or even pre-empts and influences the narrative, when the interactive bits of life are happening.

News stories are taking bits of a stream of narrative and analysing the elements. The journalistic definition of “news” is information that is of some interest to the public. The approach journalists take when they report news is to answer the big 6 questions – known in the industry as the 5 Ws and 1 H – who, what, when, where, why, and how. If narrative is a stream of connected events occuring in space and time then all these elements will be addressed.

Being of a journalistic, inquisitive bent I find that my approach to the narrative of my life has been somewhat influenced by this paradigm (paradigm is one of my favourite words). Not only do I approach any “conflict” or events that arise in my narrative (life) through the framework provided by these questions – but I’ve started viewing every event that occurs in terms of its newsworthyness.

There are a number of jokes out there featuring different professions and how they see the world – or the simple things in life. A true story I heard recently featured a group of people watching the football – a dentistry student, a med student, and an excercise/sports science student. During the game there was an incident where a player collided with another player’s head. Play was stopped while the player received some medical attention. The dentist commented on the effect the impact would have on the player’s teeth, the med student named the bones that may have been fractured, and the sports science student pointed at a guy in the background and said “he’s doing that static stretch wrong.”

And here, after that complicated five paragraph intro is the story that prompted this post… last night I was driving home from Mission Beach (where I’d been for a work function featuring Beechworth bakery owner Tom O’Toole (an interesting character)) with one other member of the Townsville Enterprise team. It’s a 2.5 hour drive to Mission Beach from Townsville – some say 3. Just outside of town we were stopped by a collection of emergency service vehicles attending the scene of a major accident… and do you want to know what my first thought was? Where are the TV cameras… this is a news story. I had my phone in my hand calling WIN television’s news director with the hot tip before I’d even considered the possibility that people may have been seriously hurt by the crash. When did I become so callous? Have I been that desensitised by years of watching and reading the news? Tom O’Toole made a comment about watching the news that was funny enough to repeat:

“If a dog came into your house and pooed on the ground while you were eating dinner you wouldn’t just sit there and watch him – you’d kick it out of the house, or worse… but every night we let the news do the same thing – it feeds half an hour of crap into our living rooms and we just watch it without thinking. I stopped watching news 20 years ago, and now when I turn on the television it’s the same news anyway – same wars, same crimes, same politics… you may not be what you eat, but you are what you fill your head with.”

Has anyone else been so obviously scarred by their profession? Do the teachers out there see every event in life as an opportunity to fill a lesson plan? Do opera singers see every tragedy as a potential aria (the style of song not the Australian Recording Industry Award)? Do IT people ever see any events that happen in the wider world? and do proctologists just think the world is a bunch of (feel free to insert an appropriate colloquialism here – I’m not going to do your dirty work for you).

The author

Nathan runs St Eutychus. He loves Jesus. His wife. His daughter. His son. His other daughter. His dog. Coffee. And the Internet. He is the campus pastor at Creek Road South Bank, a graduate of Queensland Theological College (M. Div) and the Queensland University of Technology (B. Journ). He spent a significant portion of his pre-ministry-as-a-full-time-job life working in Public Relations, and now loves promoting Jesus in Brisbane and online. He can't believe how great it is that people pay him to talk and think about Jesus.

15 thoughts on “How do you think?”

  1. In IT you are often looking at ways to analyse and process information, some of which has moral/social significance that can be easily ignored, particularly if there is no direct contact with the outcomes.
    ie if I do this well, a lot of people I hardly know will probably lose their jobs and I’ll keep mine.

    Doesn’t make the job/company wrong for trying to be as efficient as possible, but it doesn’t happen in a social vacuum.

  2. After watching 20 episodes of scrubs in over two days, I started doing the whole ‘crazy scene in the head’ kind of thing that JD does… scary.

    Opera singers generally don’t write opera, so viewing tradgedies as a potential plot doesn’t really happen. I suppose as ‘artists’ we would often draw on the reactions and emotions from events like that for work we were doing. However, I would hazzard a guess that the biggest tragedy many opera singers face would be getting wet in the rain and messing up their hair.

  3. French composer Maurice Ravel was born in Ciboure in 1875 and died in Paris in 1937. In 1906 he began sketching ideas for a symphonic poem in tribute to Johann Strauss.

    Seeking inspiration he traveled to Liechtenstein and lived on the streets as a pauper. Experiencing poverty for the first time was both cathartic and inspirational. One day while sitting on a gutter begging for crusts he saw a young boy sitting under a tree. He realised that there’s only a subtle difference between suffering and pleasure. He postulated that to truly appreciate the meaning of life he had to completely sacrifice emotion and any attachment to the world. Having discovered scientology he returned to the French capital where the shape of a Parisian croissant inspired him to write his magnum opus, a stirring tribute to the man who once pulled a coin from his ear and played the “got your nose” game on the sofa in his mother’s living room. The piece contained subtle nuances based on Ravel’s love of slap-stick comedy, particularly the work of the three stooges. The rhythmic pattern in this particular piece is based on the popular Stooges episode “pie to the face” in which Moe, Curly and Larry throw pies at unwary passers-by. This approach and the obvious influence of French culture on the piece led to Ravel’s work being critically dismissed in the United States. US President Teddy Roosevelt dismissed the piece as a veiled piece of cheap propaganda, and said that French culture had no place in his country. He dismissed Ravel as a “cheese eating surrender monkey” who should either be caged or shot.

  4. I see everything that happens as just another random plot-twist in my badly-scripted, mostly plot-less Action Movie World (of which I am the kick-ass star).
    I actually remember the 5 W’s and H from first year. Hot damn, that was a long time ago. I’m glad I got out before I became the person angling for the best blood-and-gore footage at roadside smashes.
    I’m probably going to be the person angling to become the victims’ legal rep at roadside smashes…

  5. Its true, you do start to think the way your profession dictates. Sometimes in the hospital its very hard to think of the patient as a suffering sick person as opposed to “The exciting case of endocarditis with great clinical signs and a fantastic murmur etc.” Its sad, but I guess sometimes thats just the way we have been conditioned to think.

  6. I think I am the opposite. Rather than thinking about the 4 ‘Ps’ of Marketing in everything and how clever a piece of advertising is, I am a sucker for punishment and fall for the marketing.

    Woe is me.

  7. hey Joel,

    I just read some stuff in Leah’s blog about a bulletin article on tourism in Townsville. I have a feeling I talked to your dad on the phone around the time that article went to print. I assume you’re the Joel who posts on Leah’s blog anyway… If you are its a bizarrely small world.

  8. My friend Melanie and I, in year 11 physics, would watch a leaf fall from a tree and analyse the vectors involved.

    Fortunately we’re not always conditioned to the way we were taught. If that were the case, I’d be walking around believing that I was “stardust with a conscience”.

    Although, I will admit that when a person tells me they’re sick with condition X, my first thought is to wonder what drugs they’re probably taking for it.

  9. Yes, and how long they’ve had it for, why haven’t they done anything about it? oh and if so, what other treatement modality could be better managing them…

    Oh and do they have exciting signs??????

  10. yup its the same joel.

    “The journalistic definition of “news” is information that is of some interest to the public.”

    heh. we have been taught that “news” is information of PUBLIC INTEREST. Our lecturer specified it was not necessarily of interest to the public. Coz the public is just nosey.

  11. that’s pretty much what they teach at QUT too. JCU must be ok…

    I think a safe definition of “public interest” is something thats in the best interest of the general public to know.

  12. Scooter – my little sister got pretty obssessed with vectors for a while during year 11 physics. I can’t say I ever saw the point, it’s not like vectors give life direction… (a little physics pun there people)

    CB – Is the MacDonalds M an exciting sign?

    Everyone – on the topic of exciting signs…

    I went to a tourism crisis meeting the other day on the lack of road signage in the NQ area after Larry.

    DID YOU KNOW – Road signage is essential for the tourism industry. I’d never stopped to think just how important signs are… except at a stop sign obviously…

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