Saturday, July 28, 2012

Three cheers for cheer

While thinking about extroverts and inspiration, I remembered "The Managed Heart" by the now retired woman Berkeley professor of sociology Arlie Russell Hochschild, written in 1983.  Professor Hochschild focused on airline stewardesses as an example of employees hired and required by their employees to SMILE, to keep a happy face at all times.  Smiling is part of being likeable and inviting, I guess, and my experience is that many women, especially young women, say, under 40 years old, are interested in being liked.  

I remember being surprised as a young man trying to learn to be a teacher that my female classmates said they were reluctant to discipline students for fear of being disliked.  Up to that point, the idea of prizing the students' like or love of me had not entered my perhaps dense male head.  I thought my aim should be to contribute to student success and knowledge.  I had assumed that our relation would be temporary at best.

Some things are not cheery.  Facing my reaction to them fully, even sympathetically, is often a key for my energy and inspiration.  Sure, upbeat is good but it needs to be genuine, authentic.  

Reviewing what I read in Quiet, I reflected on a school for professional leaders, executives and thinkers in which one has a duty, a duty !, to be cheerful.  Uh-oh, I took an oath myself to be cheerful.  I had forgotten about that.  It was in the Boy Scouts (memorably mentioned in Third Rock from the Sun as a "paramilitary organization for boys").  I took the Scout oath and laws seriously and I know they guided me and inspired me for years.

Yes, the 8th point of the Boy Scout Law is that a Scout is cheerful.  Reading carefully, I see the Oath says I will do my best to obey the Law.  If I am truly grumpy or otherwise not cheerful but am trying to be, I may be doing all right.  

I have been told by some of my women friends that a husband's duty, among other things, is to take care of himself to whatever extent he can in order to be around to husband his wife.  Husbandry is an art and can't be practised in absentia.  I have read several times that being of good cheer is enjoined on us by both Testaments and has been shown more recently to be linked, at least statistically, to longer life and greater health.  So, I guess that is another way that I have a duty to be cheerful, or at least, as soon and as often as possible.

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