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Crisis Management

“Doba’s response to Gabriela’s concern about what he’d do in a crisis, if the closest land was the bottom, was to say there will be no crisis. He did not say this because he’s naïve. He said it because he has reimagined the concept of crisis, just as he has reimagined the concept of suffering. A crisis, in Doba’s worldview, is an opportunity for triumph. So Doba moves toward the crisis, just as he moves toward the suffering. By choosing it, he casts himself in the role of hero, not victim. He gives himself control.

Why he Kayaked Across the Atlantic at 70 (for the third time), Elizabeth Weil, The New York Times


What makes you happy?

Can you become happier through analysis of what makes you happy?  Can you gain greater understanding of other people’s happiness through similar analysis?  I think the answer to both questions is “yes.”

I recently purchased the second season of George Lucas’ The Clone Wars.  Overall, I’m completely thrilled – so much so that I am starting to think the series is better than the original trilogies.  As I progressed through each episode, I found my level of happiness directly linked to a few select scenes.  While I was happy watching every episode, I couldn’t stop but wonder why certain scenes were more “joy-provoking” than others.

Let me share a few examples to further explore this concept.

In the episode entitled “Cargo of Doom”, there is one scene where a bounty hunter named Cad Bane has jumped into a parked spaceship to flee from Anakin Skywalker.  Once Bane jumps into the spaceship, there is some brief animation as he turns on the ship’s power.  This is visible through the illumination of lights within the ship’s cockpit.  What really excited me was the sequence of lights that illuminated within the 1-2 second interval.  Instead of just showing a single illumination (i.e. the ship is now “on”), the animators took the time to show a purposeful sequence of illumination (spatial relationship and number) giving the sense of multiple subsystems and overall complexity.

Once the ship has taken off, and Anakin is forced to jump off the wing to avoid injury, the camera follows the ship briefly as the wings are lowered and the ship accelerates.  While difficult to convey here, the chosen camera angle illustrates the significance of the situation, the complexity and acceleration of the ship, and the sheer size difference between the ship, the hangar and humans on the ground.

So, what are the themes that comprise this scene? (i.e. why do I like this scene in particular?)

Themes: technology, complexity, purpose, attention to detail, “part of something larger”, perspective, power, energy, spatial relationship, design

In another episode (“Landing at Point Rain”), there is another scene that I simply love.  The Republic is taking heavy losses against the Separatists.  After much delay, Y-wing fighters are deployed to the planet to provide critical assistance.  The scene begins with a surprised Obi-Wan Kenobi followed quickly by a ground-level camera angle that shows the rapidly approaching Y-wing (a “fly-by”).  While the scene lasts all of two seconds (~60 frames of animation), the sheer power and acceleration of the spaceship combined with an equally powerful sound effect makes for a very immersive scene.

Themes: “feeling of being there”, magnitude, realism, sound, surprise, immersion, perspective, uniqueness, influence, control, sense of scale, speed

While I could describe other scenes that produced similar euphoria, I’d recommend renting or purchasing the series to witness this creative masterpiece for yourself.  What’s important here, however, is the opinion that one’s ability to describe the themes associated with feelings of joy and happiness can ultimately open up new opportunities for oneself and one’s connection with others.

To expand upon this latter point, when interacting with others – either as friends or as colleagues – you can learn about people by truly understanding the facets of the things that provide them with joy.  For example, the statement “I enjoy watching The Clone Wars” is one level of understanding, but as you’ve just seen, it’s simply scratching the surface.  Uncover the themes behind one’s enjoyment and you can learn a great deal.

Think about movies you’ve watched, books you’ve read, or places you’ve visited.  If you find yourself in a state of euphoria, ask yourself why.  What are the descriptors behind the event?  What do those descriptors say about you, and can you increase those feelings through additional exploration?

Victim of Changes.

In August of 2009, there was a segment on the Today show that told the brief story of a man who had found his life partner only to eventually discover that she was seeking to end his life.  Fortunately, the “hit man” was an undercover police officer and the experience ended void of any tragedy.

While it’s difficult to generalize people’s responses to this story, I imagine most people place immediate blame on the wife and less on the husband.  After all, he is the victim.  But is this an appropriate response?  Remember, he chose to be with this woman and is now faced with trying to understand why he didn’t see the signs that led to this nearly tragic outcome.  At some level, he can be blamed for a situation that may have ended his life.

Let’s explore this concept further by looking at this from two opposite viewpoints:

Viewpoint #1: I am the master of my domain.

The first viewpoint is the belief that you are solely responsible for things that happen to you.  If you take this viewpoint, everything that happens to you is ultimately because of something that you did.  You can no longer claim to be a victim of circumstances, because the circumstance in question is something that you ultimately created.

For example:

If you get hit by a car, you are at fault for being in the path of the oncoming vehicle.
If you are in a career that isn’t going anywhere, you are at fault for making ‘wrong’ decisions that led you there.
If you are trapped in an earthquake, you are at fault for residing in that target location.
If you are in a relationship that isn’t working, you are at fault for participating and not leaving.

Again, if you employ this mindset, you are no longer the victim of circumstances.  You cannot introduce “higher authority” figures into the equation (e.g. “God has a plan ..”) or make similar statements like “There is a reason why this happened …” because these statements are perhaps masking the truth of the event.  Within this viewpoint, you are making decisions about what you do, who you interact with, where you live, etc. and those decisions ultimately result in events and things that impact your life – positively or negatively.

Viewpoint #2: I am a victim of circumstance.

Now let’s take a completely opposite perspective – one where your reliance upon a higher power guides your life path.  “God has a plan” or “I will pray that things will be better” or “That’s life!” are statements that reflect this viewpoint.  In some degree, you are taking responsibility (some if not all) off of your shoulders and accepting that things happen independent of your decisions or actions.

What’s interesting is that these viewpoints can be reversed depending upon the situation at hand.

For example, let’s say that you got a promotion at your job.  Even if you employed this “higher authority” viewpoint for things that generally happen to you, in this particular case you probably equate your recent success with your own abilities and decisions.  After all, you are the one who got promoted – and you wouldn’t have been promoted unless you were doing something right.  In most circumstances, your first response is not “That’s life!”  Instead, it’s one where you have taken charge of your destiny, and because of you, you have ultimately succeeded.

However, if someone close to you died unexpectedly, your first response would be – “Why did this happen?” or “Why did God let this happen?”  Because the situation is beyond one’s control, you cannot rely upon yourself to make immediate sense of the situation.  It’s only later in the grieving process where you may eventually shift your mindset and start to ask “What can I do to prevent this in the future?” (if applicable) or “What can I do to help others deal with an event such as this?”

In essence, your “life mindset” is altered depending upon what happens to you.

While I have taken the perspective of a given person, others’ responses to things that happen to you can sometimes take an opposite view to your own.  For example, if you are in a bad relationship, others may empathize but will ultimately question why you got in the situation in the first place.  If you were recently promoted, others may think of other reasons why you were promoted vs. focusing primarily on your core abilities.  If someone who you knew died in an accident, others may quickly decide that “God has his reasons …” which may be the direct opposite of how you may feel – especially if you played some indirect role in that person’s death (i.e. giving them the car keys, etc.).

Independent of how you look at these “life perspectives”, I think that personality type and life experiences will determine which perspective makes the most sense to you.  I think the lesson here is not to focus exclusively on one particular perspective, but be aware of the extremes and try to live life in the middle.  Of course, this is not easy – especially for someone like myself who believes that my life is driven by my own choices and less on the need for a higher authority.  But it is during times of sheer despair and confidence loss where this “centrist” perspective loses its value and you are forced to seek another viewpoint.

It’s a unique dichotomy that I don’t completely understand.