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Percentages and Perceptions?

I’ve walked this earth the biggest part of 60 years now. Not once do I ever recall anyone, in my own circle of acquaintances, who actually became hospitalized with the common flu or cold. As someone who practiced as a federally licensed health care administrator in the State of Ohio for over 10 years, I fully understand that a small percentage of us will die from the standard flu each year. (I’ve just never known anyone in my circle of family or friends that succumbed to the flu – ever, that I’m aware of.)

Over just the past 4 weeks, several acquaintances, friends, and even close family have tested positive for Covid-19 and exhibited symptoms. Most have struggled thru about 2 weeks of feeling crappy, achey, and feverish – along with the ongoing fatigue, loss of smell and taste, and quarantine that often follows the episode of many of those who experience symptoms. And although there is not yet any practical effective treatment or preventitive vaccine, most are recovering.

Additionally, In just the past few weeks I’ve had two good friends hospitalized with positive Covid-19 results. One went home after a few days and, I understand, is recovering well so far.

The other? Well he passed away yesterday. He was my friend, my ministry partner, who faithfully served on a team of technicians and engineers that I help lead. He was a smart, creative, selfless, generous guy who loved God, loved serving others, and will be greatly missed. It’s been a sad weekend and my heart aches with loss and bewilderment today.

To date (Dec. 6, 2020) there are 14.8 million confirmed Covid-19 cases and 282,000 Covid-19 related deaths in the US.

One thing I know for sure. 100% of these people contracted this particular virus from another living, breathing human being that somehow successfully transmitted it.

Today I personally feel fine and have no reason to suspect that I am, or ever was, positive. However, that is certainly not assumed or beyond the realm of impossibility (now or in the future).

That is why I have no desire to unnecessarily breathe on anyone and will continue with the following simple practices of basic hygiene given the current circumstances:

  1. I will avoid close proximity to others especially indoors and in small spaces.
  2. I will avoid large crowded gatherings.
  3. I will always effectively cover my nose and mouth with some type of physical barier when around others. By and large we distribute this virus thru our expelling of respiratory moisture.
  4. I will wash or sanitize my hands regularly and avoid rubbing my eyes and touching my face.
  5. I will avoid all physical greetings such as hugging and hand-shaking with others outside my household.

This is how I choose to serve the people I care about and proceed with my activities of daily living.

Part 3 “Media” and the Loss of the Hero

Many often blame “the media” for almost everything that’s “wrong”. By definition the word media is simply plural for the word medium. For example written text on paper is a medium, chalk on a sidewalk can be a medium, radio broadcast is a medium, tires on a car and a glove on a hand are media. You and I can be the medium by which COVID-19 can exist and spread. Today however, what many attribute to “the media” is actually just news or the press in general and, more specifically, any information that doesn’t align with one’s personal convictions. Blaming “the media” is kind of like blaming your mistakes, poor choices, or unfortunate circumstances on a hair dryer, a snow shovel, or a piece of wallpaper.

What’s more interesting culturally is our apparent attraction and fascination with individuals who appear to have narcissistic personalities. They actually thrive in this environment. And strangely, large numbers of seemingly intelligent, otherwise kind people can so easily rally around an individual then excuse, and even defend the most rude and vile behaviors and expressions, without rational thought or serious consideration. And it’s not just with the current president. It’s also sports and entertainment celebrities, politicians and preachers. We complain, yet we reward. How diametrically different from 20 years ago when a “hero” had to earn or accomplish something meaningful before becoming a celebrity. We often support our favorite celebrities with the same blind and fervent loyalty as a local football team, regardless of whether they are successful at winning or accomplishing anything notable or selfless. Any actual accomplishment of the hero becomes questionable and is eclipsed by the continuous over-exposure or “fake it till you make it approach” of the celebrity.

The radical advance and speed of electronic technologies have contributed to the replacement of “hero” with “celebrity”. It seems narcissists thrive in our culture today because developing a brand and loyalty is the only way to acquire broad appeal in a short amount of time. Facts and content are no longer primary influences and thus no longer automatically serve as a substantially effective means of persuasion. Often facts and information are irrelevant. Fabricating controversy and dismissing all external thought as “hoax” or “fake news” seems to be the emotional currency of the day. And social media provides a powerful global platform to foster that process. It’s ironic that as our historically unprecedented, widely and equally accessible level of “free speech” gets pushed more to it’s over saturated limits, much content becomes suspect, and all thought and ideas get randomly mixed together to create one pot of overwhelmingly irrelevant noise …resulting in, well, less free speech. Such is the post modern era.

How diametrically different from 20 years ago when a “hero” had to earn or accomplish something meaningful before becoming a celebrity.

It seems that so much of the perplexing and seemingly obscure ideas that Philosipher Marshall McLuhan wrote about in the 60s and 70s regarding media theory, communications, and technologies is literally unfolding in this decade and started becoming visible around 2005. Why?

Now thru the lens of history we can get a glimpse of what he was getting at when he coined the phrase:

“The medium is the message”. For a more in depth look at media and effects from McLuhan’s 1964 writings.

Part 2: What is the “media” ?

There’s lots of buzz about “the media” these days.  Americans seem to blame it for many things that may nor may not go their way.  For example “the media” gets blamed for liberal bias or right-wing conspiracies.  Our president blames the “the media” for not being fair or flattering and others blame “the media” for being too lax on abortion or personal rights.  It’s as if somehow “the media” has a bias or agenda. Some think “The media” somehow manipulates us into purchasing things or changing our behavior via advertising, marketing, or public relations. We even gravitate to whichever voice validates our own beliefs in exclusion to other’s “media”. But what is media and what does it really do?

Often, when we speak of “the media”, what we are actually referring to news reporting (journalism)  or un-moderated opinion posting on social media such as Twitter and Facebook. And although electronic media is what most of us currently think of in today’s information explosion, it’s really much more.  The term is actually the plural of the word medium (singular).

One of the most powerful and revolutionary definitions of media that I’ve discovered comes from the 1960s writings of Marshall McLuhan. McLuhan writes “Every medium is an extension of our humanity.”

Under this definition, literally everything is a medium, And it provides a powerful lens by which to assess and evaluate our culture and surroundings. For example the telephone is an extension of our voice and ears, the wheel is an extension of our feet (regarding transportation), clothing is an extension of our skin, security cameras are an extension of our eyes, a tv remote is an extension of our finger etc.

Ok, so the “media” is not really a singular thing or entity, so what? Why is this important to understanding our current culture?


Memories of a childhood dream

Mostly self taught, I did take a few guitar lessons at Lombardy Music store around the 4th grade I seem to recall.  My teacher was Donny Leitzke who happened to be a next door neighbor in Milan, Ohio. Man, the guy could play.  I watched the Monkey’s on TV, then later Don Kirshner Rock Concerts and Midnight Specials. (I also vaguely recall the Beatles on Ed Sullivan but was a little young to have had any profound impact.) Those were magical times.

Basement band started with friend Les who played drums. No PA, I had a guitar/ amp. We needed a bass player. No one old enough to drive. We would play Jumping Jack Flash for hours. Moms would drive us and our gear to Les’ basement in winter or our barn in summer. I recall plugging in a cheap pair of radio shack headphones to the output of a 200 watt Kustom guitar amp so I could better hear over Les’ drums. It worked nice for about a 45 seconds after which a hole literally melted through the hard plastic case, it then smelled funny, gave off a little smoke, and quit. (go figure)

First “PA” was a Radio Shack hi impedance microphone into a 2-channel paging amplifier connected to a bell speaker that we salvaged out of an old trailer park. It didn’t work that well and we really didn’t sing very well, but it was something instead of nothing.

We taught ourselves to build a “light show”. (every cool band had to have a light-show). Built our own lights, flash pots, strobes etc. We also tried to build dry ice “machines”. At one point we had one of those red police flashers that we wired up to a switchable duplex outlet connected to a 12v battery charger mounted inside this wooden desk. It worked pretty great until one day one of our “roadies” plugged it into one of the regular 120Vac outlets and flipped the switch. It spun faster than heck – for about 8 seconds, put off a little smoke, smelled funny then quit. (go figure)

Flash Powder, Salamander kerosene space heaters, and one extension cord between the garage and the barn to power the whole show.

Around our senior year, we booked our own concert at the local National Guard Armory. We teamed up with another local band so we could increase attendance and cover the room rental and required security cop costs. We even had high-school friends help promote and sell tickets that we had printed. Many tickets got “lost” and not nearly enough cash came in. (go figure)

Great memories. We learned a lot. We lived, we laughed, we didn’t die from electrocution or burn the barn down. Gradually got better at playing music, general management, and basic accounting. All together I’d say it was a win. 🙂

Tech in church – serving behind the scenes? It matters …a lot

It wasn’t quite what we expected.  The first event mixing on a newly installed sound system was for a small funeral. Not complicated or particularly glamorous. Pretty simple really with 1 mic, 1 song track, and a single light setting. The reality was that somebody knowledgeable and capable had to sacrifice a few hours on a Saturday morning to serve.  I was one of a handful that had the privilege of helping a good friend and serve his hurting family.

Few in this room will ever have a clue about the past two years of sound system planning, meetings, the complex installation that began 5 days prior, or the late hours our team spent getting things dialed the night before – so we could be ready for today.  They don’t know what we do behind the scenes nor should they have to. But for this group of people, carrying much sadness and grief, some who might be feeling far from God or maybe haven’t stepped into a church for a long long time, in this moment – this stuff mattered …a lot.  

If you serve your local church in the area of Technical Arts, please understand, what you and I get to do behind the scenes each week at our campuses matters …a lot. The time and energy you invest learning your craft and caring for one another on your team during the week matters …a lot. The effort you make to be on-site a few minutes ahead of the band ensuring that systems are fully on and working properly, on time matters …a lot. (It’s how we serve our team and create a low anxiety environment for our worship leaders.)

So thank you all: Thank you for serving in your church. Thank you and thanks to your families who get to see you devote maybe even one weekend a month to caring for and serving others. Thanks for re-arranging your work and personal time, for juggling vacations and recreation, for prioritizing your kid’s activities to make room for God to work in your life and in the lives of others. Thank you for taking part in creating transformational moments each week that minister to hurting people. Thanks for serving our pastors and musicians each week so God’s word can be clearly understood. Regardless if you serve a small group or single event of 6 – 60, or multiple complex  services with full rooms of 250, 350, 600, or 1000+, there will be stories of eternal life-change you will likely never hear about this side of heaven.

Your church – the people who serve in it and the people who attend it each week depend on you.

Please know that whether you are a veteran technician, or are just starting this amazing journey, your investment of time and effort providing audio, video, camera, and lighting operations is deeply appreciated and you are dearly loved. Blessings, and serve well this week!