Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Paradox

Just finished listening to Numbers, a This American Life podcast. In Act 4 of this podcast, a marketing man tells how he used the tools of modern brand marketing to "sell" himself to his own wife and how it helped their marriage. Act 5, Break It Down, is a short story by Lydia Davis about a man who tries to calculate what love costs.

The contrast between the two Acts is telling. Both the marketer and the love love their partners. The marketer began going steady with his wife when they were both 14; they both went to the same college; they've been married for several years. The lover describes a mutually intentional short-term relationship.

The marketer thought he knew nearly everything there was to know about his wife. He felt silly using the tools of his trade to market himself to his wife, but he was doing it as a project for work. Much to his surprise, he found out that there was much he did not know.

Particularly compelling was an observation by Ira Glass, the host of the program. He speculated that the marketing work so well because it allowed a translation of what was most important to the wife into words the husband could understand.

The emotionality, the pain, and even the despair in Act 5 are more obvious. The lover loves; yet he (she?) must face the inevitability of the end of the relationship.

What do these stories have to do with "Calling Ministers"? The parallels and the paradoxes are interesting. Like love, there are aspects ministry that can't be quantified. Both stories from This American Life show the limits of communication. The surprise is that in a situation (a marriage) where one would think certain tools (marketing) would not apply, important lessons were learned.

They are interviewing and assessment tools that were developed in academia and first applied in the private sector would benefit the examining process for UU ministry. Much would be learned, both by the examiners and the examinees. In future posts will explore the benefits and the limits of applying these tools.

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