Autumn with the falling leaves takes my musings back, way back.
And it’s harvest season…
Almost a half-century ago, my part-time job while in college had me behind camera at the local TV station. Among our handful of live programs, we featured a weekly “On the Farm” with Harry Holt. My memory still holds the show as a pretty-good representation of West Texas. But the standard was set not by the host of the show; instead it goes to a bit-part on the program. The sharpest memory targets a bow-legged rancher who mumbled out the two-minute stock report, monotone, auctioneer-paced, almost expressionless. He recited the numbers for livestock sales: stock on-the-farm means cattle sales, not New York Stock Exchange. Why would I remember this?
Why after these fifty years following those two to three years of employment in a TV studio does memory command attention to that minor figure? His name escapes me, but not his iconic presence. His rhetorical “plain style” must have impressed me with an indelible mark. Maybe it’s because his presence restored a faith that had been debilitated, almost destroyed, by the flamboyant preachers who were making me increasingly cynical about style. While majoring in the study of rhetoric, the canon of style had been put at risk of being demonized.
As in contemporary political discourse, hellfire gets results, the crowd-response kind, but it skirts individual understanding. It’s not faithful to the unique, “god-given” gift. It’s Common Core scores without personal life-long empowerment. It’s number of publications with insufficient attention to depth of quality. It’s missing the movement of consciousness and the moment of moral responsibility.
Perhaps the integrity of the cattleman’s presentation staked out a territory of true religion; #Belief twines together word and character, inseparable. Why can’t style be a treasure? Or is it destined to deceit? Despite all the manipulations of deceptive rhetoric, at some deeper level I wanted to know that appearance can complement reality.
Over the subsequent fifty years, I am increasingly convinced that integrity cues truth, but such discernment requires a person with eyes to see, ears to hear. That’s the goal of Good Stories: our explorations and productions reach toward integrity, to know it, to live it. And it resonates with scripture from at least three major faiths. As cited below, most cannot or do not discern who walks the talk.
About five years after leaving the part-time TV job and while in graduate school, that staked-out territory found partial redemption when a professor of rhetoric cited the classical definition: “style is the man.” Integrity—like the cattleman refusing to accommodate the TV standards that required spotlighting the speaker’s face, especially the eyes and mouth. His Stetson stayed, planted deep enough to withstand the perpetual duststorm, true to character even if his eyes were shadowed from showtime lights. And his insistence on self-identity pushed me to search for a different spot to focus the picture.
It’s not on made-up eyes. No. Not on the show. Not on scores. No, instead it’s found in that center of being that plumbs to where the most personal alchemizes into the most universal. #Belief.
Son of man, you are living among a rebellious people. They have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious people. Ezekiel 12:2
He said, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, "'though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.”' Luke 8:12
So have they not traveled through the earth and have hearts by which to reason and ears by which to hear? For indeed, it is not eyes that are blinded, but blinded are the hearts which are within the breasts. Qur’an 22:46