Friday, March 29, 2019

The Sports Page: A training ground for listening training.

Sports writers, coaches, and players move metaphors to explain in a short hand way what is happening. Todays Quad City Times (Friday, March 29, 2019) is no exception. The article is about the Pleasant Valley girls track team, the sprinters and their relay coach. The coach is quoted, “when you have the versatility of the kids we have, it becomes a chess match.”  Following the suggestion of Johnson and Lakoff in Metaphors for Everyday Life we have an orientation metaphor, versatile, and a root metaphor, chess match.” I guess the chess match refers to the coach moving runners to different places. The article gives examples before “chess match” is used. “Chess match” becomes a summary of what has preceded. 

Seeing metaphors is the first task for seeing deeper levels of meaning. From seeing them you can move to listening for them.   

First a definition: meta new   phor place
Aristotle wrote about metaphors in his book on Rhetoric. 

My way of teaching the Befriender model of listening starts with seeing. The first session in their training after the orientation was on metaphors. I sent folks home to check out the sports page for metaphors. One lady came back saying, "I couldn't find any. I asked my grandson to help and he could not find any either. This is too difficult." I said thanks for the metaphor. She was puzzled. "Difficult" is an "orientation" metaphor. You can move difficult to a lot of different places. Orientation metaphors are verbs, adverbs, adjectives, and prepositions. Root metaphors are nouns, pronouns, and often direct objects.

One year a gentleman started from ground zero, an engineer, as to what metaphors meant. He was the most academically educated in the group yet with no awareness of how metaphors function in our language and communication. At the end of the evening he said they were the key to communication. The word key told me, “He got it.”

Sports writers and coaches delight their readers with metaphors that are easy to see. Whether they understand how language works I do not know. I do know they know how to make language work. And what I do is help people know, what they already know, but don’t know they know. 

“sweep the series. It was a clean sweep.” This is no ordinary broom. This is metaphorical language engaged in communicating. 

What did you find in the sports page today? Take a look and circle the orientation and root metaphors 

Another example from the past.

Kirk Ferentz, the Iowa coach did it after the Wisconsin Game. “We’re not the prettiest car in the lot,” Ferentz said, “but that’s OK. We’re having a lot of fun.” Who would match a car lot with a team at a football game? "Not the prettiest car in the lot" was his description of the Hawkeye team metaphorically speaking. Obviously they are not literally a car in the lot and then "not the prettiest car." He has moved the expression to represent his team. And you don't have to be "pretty" to win and you can have a "lot of fun" at the same time. In a more earthy way others say, "they get the job done." Here "job done" is moved to describe the Hawkeyes.

 Root Metaphors and Orientation Metaphors: 
Root metaphors are nouns, pronouns, and direct objects. Johnson and Lakoff use “time is money” as root metaphors in our culture. We talk about budgeting our time, saving time, and spending our time (Johnson and Lakoff, page 7-8).
Orientation metaphors are verbs, adverbs, adjectives, and above all, prepositions (Lakoff and Johnson, pages 9-24). We can easily miss how much prepositions tell us as they move from "down in the basement," "the stock market is down," and "down in the dumps." Without getting overly complicated, as some explanations can, I stick to these two basic kinds of metaphors for gaining a better understanding for listening to stories.
Examples from my hospital experience.   
Fire makes poets of us all: Shakespeare.

As we search for words to explain the unexplainable we resort to metaphors, moving words we understand to what we do not understand. The reality, you can not construct a sentence without using metaphors. It isn’t realistic to look or listen for every word. Find the metaphor as Aristotle suggests means find the key words that are the heart of the story. Sometimes hidden. Sometimes unsaid. Sometimes out in the open as clear as day. We move words around to different places as innovative as poets. We are meaning and image makers.

“The doctor dropped a bomb on me today.” The remark of a wife outside of the Intensive Care Unit after the doctor had told her about her husbands condition. He said, “Her husbands mental confusion may not clear up soon.” I notified her church. Later in the day after various visitors dropped by she said, “My husband and I have weathered many storms.” She moved from shattered to finding a way through. Her metaphors tell her story.

change the metaphor you change your story.
change the story you change your future.

Marlin Whitmer

Friday, March 22, 2019

The Placebo Effect


Story Listeners are part detective, translator, and healer. My placebo effect stories involve a different definition of placebo.

Most of us associate placebo with dummy pills or something other than the real thing. Placebo may be used in a research project where one group has the real thing and the other a placebo. Both groups are told the same thing so neither is aware who has the placebo.

My story begins in an unrelated way. I received a request from Jane Estrata to send several papers Gordon Roberts had written. Gordon had been at the Vanderbuilt Hospital for medical care under a Dr. Roberts for shy dragger syndrome. The syndrome, a rare disease of the autonomic nervous system is similar but different from Parkinson’s disease. Gordon gave me his papers before his death. Jane was doing a research project for Dr. Roberts, collecting articles patients had written. They hoped to publish a book, the first half explaining the medical perspective and the second half would include the articles by patients. In our phone conversation I said I had a question. How about asking the people with shy draggers syndrome what word they use to describe their condition. I knew this was a long shot and not part of the protocol. Six months later I received a call from Jane saying she was asking the question and most were replying, “stumbling in the dark.” The shy dragger patients begins to stumble as a drunk when the start walking and their blood pressure drops. Super specialists stumble in the dark as well since they do not understand this illness.  They can only treat the symptoms. The next most frequent answer had to do with the hand they had been dealt. Like in the cards they had been delt, a more fatalistic metaphor.

Jane obviously passed this on to the person who was in charge of the Shy Dragger support group. I received several calls from her that resulted in a trip to Phoenix to talk to the support group about metaphors. The unique feature, they met at the same time as the International Autonomic Neurology specialists from around the world. 

Guess who was there? Dr Roger Bannister, the man who broke the four minute mile. He was a neurologist in England specializing in shy dragger syndrome. He was on a panel that spoke to the support group including both patients and caregivers. They received an update on the latest medical findings, which didn’t seem to be much. The discussion was enlightening just the same.

Later as I was going out the entrance to the motel I met Dr. Bannister who was standing there. I introduced myself and said I had a question. He gave me permission to ask. “I work with volunteers in the hospital who listen to patients stories. And on occasion they have mentioned how a darkness in the face will become lighter as their story is shared. What is going on in the autonomic nervous system to bring about the change.” He said without hesitation, “The placebo effect.” Someone came up and interrupted our conversation. I am left with this two-word answer that doesn’t make any sense to me. That was my last and only chance to engage Dr. Roger Bannister. However, I filled the word for future reference hoping to understand some day. I had a clue without a catch.

Because of my role as a chaplain and a department manager I received a hospital management magazine with management articles as well as a few by physicians and nurses. One physician wrote a monthly column. A year later he had a column on “the placebo effect” where he says doctors in England have a different definition. He referenced an article from the English medical journal Lancet. I checked with the medical librarian and now I have the whole article. The core of the English definition is this, “The relationship the doctor has with the patient is equal to the treatment being given.” Aha! The stories Befrienders are hearing that bring about non verbal changes is this relational component the English call the placebo effect. It was this effect that allowed the volunteers and non professionals to become part of the Samaritan suicide prevention program.

This is an exciting breakthrough for a detective that has been wondering what to do with the clue “placebo effect.”

Then I heard about Dr. Herbert Benson’s book “Timeless Healing.” He wants to redefine the placebo effect with a down to earth application of the English definition that has a direct physiological benefit. However, he is translating the term, moving the definition to a new place. The change will require both professionals and non professionals to think differently about some basic realities.

I bought the book before one of our Thanksgiving trips to family in California. The book was a good read on the plane going and on return. On return we stopped at Las Vegas where my aunt was living in a nursing home.

Herbert Benson calls his story approach “Remembered Wellness.” Placebo is redefined as "remembered wellness" (Benson, p. 20-1). When people tell their story they can move from sad times to good times and in so doing they engage in self care from a health standpoint. This is “Remembered Wellness.”

“The placebo effect yields beneficial clinical results in 60-90% of diseases that include angina pectoris, bronchial asthma, herpes simplex, and duodenal ulcer. Three components bring forth the placebo effect: (a) positive beliefs and expectations on the part of the patient; (b) positive beliefs and expectations on the part of the physician or health care professional; and (c) a good relationship between the two parties.” (Benson and Friedman, p. 193) 

When prayer is present imperative ...


Our pre-existing environment for Prayer.

Our relationship for prayer is already present in a continuous mode, ever present from the beginning and through eternity. Luke’s Gospel gives more space and clarity to this environment in the 11thchapter of Luke. Matthew’s Gospel being earlier sets if off.

In Luke a disciple, unnamed, asks, “teach us to pray as John’s disciples.” Teach is in the aorist imperfect meaning action in the present now. Jesus begins with what is commonly called the Lord’s prayer.

In the Lord’s prayer are verbs of interest. Hallowed, come, be done, are all in the aorist imperative meaning now, in the present. Give changes to aorist imperative where giving will be continuous in the present. The giving has no beginning or ending, it is ongoing. We are in a pre-existing environment. And it is each day which re-enforces the continuous. Forgive moves back and puts the focus on what we are to do in the present now. Deliver in "deliver us from evil" is also aorist imperative with a focus on the present now.

The prayer environment in the verb forms move back and forth between a focus on the present now and continuously. This gets expanded as Luke continues with the start from Matthew. Luke adds a story of needing to get bread from someone who has already retired for the night. The disturbance causes (what was to be continuos, rest for the night} to be interrupted by the persistence (aorist imperative) of the intruder. Permission granted to intrude on God in a present now.

Here is where Matthew and Luke unite in their verb forms which expand on our prayer environment with Luke 11:1-13 and Matthew 7:7-12  

We are to ask, seek, and knock continuously in the present. There is no indication of time out. And if we do take time out what we left continues. We are in a prayer environment as the air around us. Prayer becomes part of our autonomic nervous system where our prayers continue while other areas of consciousness take center stage. Coming back reaffirms, adds to, revises, what we ask, seek, knock. At all times we are ready and open for the outcomes of these three modes. Aha! Moments await us. 


Monday, March 18, 2019

A present imperative verb form involving "follow." "come and see"

“Follow” as a continuous action in the present, this is the Greek verb present imperative. We don’t have this in English as our verbs are more time centered than action.

The first time "follow" appears in the Gospel of John is in Chapter 1, and the last time is in Chapter 21. A lot happens in between.

Starting with chapter 1 and the present imperative verb form.

We have follow in the present imperative.

1:43th epaurion hqelhsen exelqein eiV thn galilaian kai euriskei filippon kai legei autw [o ihsouV] akolouqeimoi   
43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. And he found Philip and said to him, "Follow me."  

190 [e]

46kai eipen autw naqanahl ek nazaret dunatai ti agaqon einai legei autw filippoV ercou kai ide   
46 Nathana-el said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him,"Come and see."

Come is in the present imperative and see is in the aorist imperative. Interesting contrast between present imperative and aorist imperative. Both focus on the present but one, Come, is a continuous present, and see, centers on the specific present along the way. Aha’s come out of coming as a continuous, where you stay alert continuously for insights in the present moment, like this insight in the now. Aha!

"Come and see" also appears in the story of the raising of Lazarus in the same two verb forms. Chapter 11.

At the end of chapter 12 we have follow and walk and believe in the present imperative, again use the word continuous with each.

Jumping a lot of chapters and more than one present imperative we find a significant number in Chapter 21. They are marked red here. Hopefully when I transfer this article to the blog. Yes they are in the red.

John 21: 15 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”
16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, Tend My sheep.”
17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?”
And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”
Jesus said to him, Feed My sheep. 18 Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” 19 This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.”
20 Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” 21 Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?”
22 Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.” 

Remember Feed, Tend, Feed, Follow are continuous in the present. 

I am finding the mental discipline of present imperative, continuous in the present, generates a new kind of consciousness. 

How does the present imperative verbs impact you?

And a concluding question. Who is the person in the Gospels who uses the present imperative the most and what is the reason for that?

I will be posting more examples of the present imperative verbs from the Gospels. How about the Gospel of Luke and prayer.