God of justice, God of mercy, make us merciful and just,Help us see all your creation, as from you a sacred trust.And when people cry in anguish for their own or other’s pain,Show us ways to make a difference, O dear God make us humane!How can we, as people chosen, by your grace for service here,How endure another’s hardship without offering hope or cheer?God, forgive us, we beseech you, when our love fails to empower.Teach us how to be more faithful, in this present cruel hour.Grant all people work with meaning, strength to care for those they love.Food for table, truth for telling, challenges to rise above.But remind us, God of justice, this is now our work, our call!Changing life’s oppressive systems into ones empowering all.
A NYT article, ”A Battle Plan for Jetlag,” promises to distill NASA-developed techniques for us earth-dwelling travelers to fight jet lag. It sounded cool. But then I read it, and these are the takeaways I got from it:
- Well, at least that explains the indigestion.
- Wear sunglasses at certain times when traveling in certain directions.
- And when you do, you’ll feel really cool. “People will think you’re a rock star.”
… Or rather, you think they think you’re a rock star.
I know because I’ve tried this on New York subways. Whenever I see people wearing sunglasses on the subway, I think they must have (a) puffy crying-eyes, (b) a black eye or (c) an inflated ego.
But then I tried it one time, and it was a pretty awesome feeling. Especially living in New York, where the crowds crush in on you at all times, a pair of sunglasses on the subway is a screen between you and everyone else. It’s liberating. You can see them; they can’t see you. Or so you think; they’re actually staring at you because they think you look stupid wearing sunglasses on the subway.
But hey! That’s the point exactly. With the sunglasses on, you don’t care what they think. For all they know, you’re a rock star.
In the last post, I mentioned a study from two years ago that claimed people experience more of a boost in their happiness levels before a trip than during or after. The argument goes, it’s the anticipation and the planning that gets people all excited:
After the vacation, happiness quickly dropped back to baseline levels for most people…. There was no post-trip happiness benefit for travelers who said the vacation was “neutral” or “stressful.” Surprisingly, even those travelers who described the trip as “relaxing” showed no additional jump in happiness after the trip. “They were no happier than people who had not been on holiday,” said the lead author, Jeroen Nawijn.
So how can you drag out those happiness benefits? Well, I recently attended a talk at LSE with Daniel Kahneman, a seminal behavioural economist. I was excited because his research comprised about 30% of my syllabus in behavioural econ this term. The talk was unfortunately not all that interesting but I blame the moderator, who I thought did a really dismal job and barely knew what he was talking about (system 1, system 2, blah blah blah).
One thing that did stand out is Kahneman’s point about how our memories of experiences are shaped. He points out that people tend to conflate memory and experience, even though experiencing a moment and remembering it later are actually quite different. For example, if you attend a concert and there’s a loud screeching noise (or a persistent ringtone) at the end, you might say, “It ruined the experience for me.” Actually, the experience was how you enjoyed the concert during the first hour and a half, yet the memory of that experience is disproportionately determined by a final screech. In other words, we’re overly influenced by last impressions or peak (and, possibly, trough) moments.
The takeaway for traveling well? Remember it better. As this NYT article on “Planning the Perfect Vacation” recommends, try to end on a high note—save the best for last, perhaps—or at least plan a few activities or moments that will stand out in your memory as something special.
The other part that has made traveling even more fun in retrospect is recognizing the places I’ve been in the media. I was watching a rather boring movie called The Cardinal, which really wasn’t capturing my interest at all until! they were on a boat from Vienna along the Danube, passing right by the towns where we’d gone biking, on his way to the monastery!
Or hearing about Hallstatt on the news (this week’s “Wait Wait.. Don’t Tell Me“) because China spent nearly a billion dollars to create a replica of the Austrian village, though it doesn’t come with the alpine beauty and the lakes and the waterfall roaring through the town. (If you watch the BBC video, doesn’t the mayor of Hallstatt look just like Julian Assange?)
Something of the rustic, natural beauty gets lost in translation.
And I guess you can’t really create a whole mountain range either.
The “I’ve been there!” moment is all the more enhanced because these places always do seem to look better in the movies, don’t they? I was watching a film set in New York City the other day, and whenever I watch movies about New York I’m always amazed at how bright and shiny and clean everything looks.
Journaling helps preserve the memories too. Blogging especially has been helping me to keep reliving the memories! In short, I know I’m a lucky gal to have traveled so much in a mere ten months. My European travels are almost at an end, but they are hopefully well-preserved in my memory—and on this blog—for all their peaks and troughs and everyday details.
The other day, I read a BBC article about how to make weather conversations more interesting and scoffed. Of all the things to write a news article about, how to talk about the weather? As if the Brits need any help with that. And if “Cloudy today, eh?” wasn’t a particularly successful conversation-starter, I doubt “Take a look at that cumulonimbus” would fare much better.
But it got me thinking about clouds, because I honestly am fascinated with the clouds here in the UK. They seem much lower to the ground than anywhere else I’ve lived, and are much faster-moving. And then yesterday we went to the terrace of the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden to this gorgeous sight:
And I was won over.
That’s a fine-looking stratocumulus, wouldn’t you say?
A month after the first KONY2012 video stirred up intense controversy, Invisible Children released a sequel, “Beyond Famous.” The tone and content of this video—much more detailed and factual, interviewing local activists and abductees on the ground—have clearly adapted based on the criticism the first video received. (It even opens with clips of praise and criticism from the media.)
There was a quote of Jason Russell’s that I reacted viscerally to: “No one wants a boring documentary on Africa.” His meltdown and hospitalization have undercut his credibility by a lot, and he clearly is absent from the production of this video. It’s interesting to note because this sequel, in a sense, is the “boring documentary” Russell claims wouldn’t have the same viral stickiness. Sure, it’s much more thorough, factually accurate and culturally sensitive, but as a result it’s also less flashy and doesn’t tug quite as hard on the heartstrings.
Was Russell right? If the first KONY2012 documentary had been made in the style of this sequel, would it have taken off the way it did?
I’m not sure; I’m still wrestling with this balance between substance and stickiness and probably always will. But I do have to say that this video is like so many nonprofit advocacy videos I’ve seen before. The documentary is very well-made, of course: beautifully filmed, with poignant footage and backable claims to what KONY 2012 has accomplished thus far. But it follows a familiar formula: facts conveyed through compelling infographics, emotion conveyed through primary interviews and predictably lilting music, hope inspired through activists’ personal testimonies. (I especially love the interviews with schoolchildren—you can see their passion just bursting off the screen.)
Whatever might be said about the KONY 2012 film controversy, it’s undeniable that taking a risky departure from the expected way of doing things had a huge impact, even eliciting a direct response from the LRA. It was strange that Invisible Children took so long to respond to the backlash; then it was deeply unfortunate that Jason Russell’s public meltdown threw a wrench in the organization’s plans and in his personal credibility.
So the impact of KONY2012 had a lot of both positive and negative potential. With this sequel and other follow-up steps in their campaign, I hope Invisible Children will use the opportunity to accomplish something meaningful—and that we viewers will do the same, rather than sink deeper into the complacency of armchair criticism.