The Culture of Personality

It’s a simple idea really, and she documents it with precision.

As Cain writes in her book, we currently live in a “Culture of Personality,” where extraversion is the ideal, a far departure from the past “Culture of Character,” which prized honor and discipline. “What counted was not so much the impression one made in public as how one behaved in private,” she writes.

https://psychcentral.com/blog/the-power-of-introverts-qa-with-susan-cain/

Thrown into the mix of a culture growing on salesmanship, the same culture in which Dale Carnegie grew to be an icon, she documents the change in advertising as a simple way to see what was growing in the popular culture of the time. Ads changed from simple advertisements, to the perceived need for a product to be accepted and loved. “Buy this Toothpaste and make the best first impression.” “Buy this scent so everyone will know you’re the best.” That sort of thing.

Business schools started gearing their classes towards extroversion, et cetera down the line until we see today the leadership courses so popular that rely almost solely on extroverted leadership as the basis and norm of action in being a qualified leader.

As priests we take these leadership courses on and off – team building, brainstorming, meetings galore. Nothing is ever said about the need for people to have time to focus and develop their ideas, and nothing is said about the fact that many of the most successful corporations and businesses have as their leaders complete introverts (think Microsoft, Apple, for starters.)

This boils down to our current situation, in the Church, where we priests being expected to be extroverted leaders in a world dominated by extroverts, aside from the fact that most priests are introverts. The culture of personality shows up very strong in such an environment where we see priests needing to be liked more than they are expected to behave in a Catholic way in private.

The reliance on a culture of personality for church leadership can, in my own consideration, lead to such things as Fr. Travis Clark and Fr. Pat Wattigny, doing everything right to be priests, yet having a bizarre double lives.

Extroversion and Introversion aside – they’re just preferences and not the ultimate shaper of one’s free will – Cal Newport writes about Deep Work. His writing is geared towards academics, but how much more necessary is it for the Church to observe his own basic and obvious conclusions? Three to four hours are required to enter into a state of thought conducive to our best work in any subject.

As a musician I would practice three hours a day at least, it was the only way to play a Bach Fugue on the organ as it should have been played. (I don’t have that time anymore, so don’t play publicly anymore – many musicians do the same once they move on.) As a leader I insisted one of our introverted workers have the free time to spend three to four hours in her work, because she is capable of greater things when allowed that time and space.

In the Church today we see everyone going from Parish to Parish for Fr. X, Fr. Y, Fr. C – it’s all about the Priest and not about the Mass. Fr. So and so is nicer, he understands me, the music is better. Parishes – most of them – are no longer formed around the Faith – they’re essentially formed around the current Pastor.

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“The tycoons of social media have to stop pretending that they’re friendly nerd gods building a better world and admit they’re just tobacco farmers in T-shirts selling an addictive product to children. Because, let’s face it, checking your “likes” is the new smoking.” Cal Newport

Much to reflect upon in our current state of affairs.

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Mid the Bleak Midwinter

oranges

In the middle of winter, when the sky is dark and the rain is falling all around so that it feels like you’re in the middle of an ocean – life is perfect. I am just nuts about winter weather here in Louisiana. If I lived in Wisconsin I doubt I could take it, though. I mean, I have my limits. And we have oranges.

True, winter has only just started.

Rain is a good thing and you’ll never – well, rarely – hear me complain about it. If it never rained, the place wouldn’t be so green.

That being said, I’m not quite sure why I’m not cozy in bed with a good book on this rainy morning, and am instead jittery with caffeine posting pictures of oranges – unedited at that because photoshop is not responding to my promptings – on my strange little website.

It has to do with prayer. Because in the last few weeks I’ve become aware of the need to reorient my life ever more towards Jesus Christ. And it has to do with Faith, because I’ve come to consider that the Church is very confused right now. For a time I’ve let that confusion cloud my mind. But, in respect to the integrity of my state in life, and my station here, there can be no confusion.

We (the clergy of the Archdiocese,) took a workshop awhile ago which focussed on the differences amongst the various generations of clergy. Which are huge. It’s obvious to any observer that the differences are huge between someone ordained to the Priesthood in, say, 2004, and someone ordained to the Priesthood in, say, 1978. So, we have one priest saying one thing, one saying another – one bishop saying one thing, one saying something completely different – one Pope saying one thing and one saying something another.

Priests here have said that a reason Deacons were so avidly introduced back in the day was to pave the way for married clergy. Some have said “We’re not going back! If you don’t like what we’re doing you’ll just have to wait until we die!”

I mean, this is crazy talk. No one can dwell seriously on it. Except for the fact that they’re deadly serious when they say it and it affects all of us.

So. I do what I can out here on the peripheries at our sprawling ruralish parish, filled with the full breadth of human experience on any given day. And I’m filled with wonder when considering the scriptures, the sacraments, the promises of life itself.

I’m certainly not waiting for anyone to die. That’s crazy talk.

I’m off to listen to the rain, though. And to give thanks for so many blessing in this life.