Captain, My Captain

I had made several promises to my friends and ACL co-panelists Emily and Gerol.  Since I’d be driving to the ACL Institute and they’d be flying, I would meet their flights and handle their ground transportation.  Since we work best when we stay in the same place – and since it was my turn to handle logistics – I took care of the AirBnB rental, which is why I’m typing these words in a beautiful old bungalow near the University of Memphis campus.  I promised everyone – including myself and my family – that I’d finally replace my battered, but “still perfectly serviceable” old cell phone before the trip.  And since Emily had never seen the Nashville Parthenon, and had never eaten fried green tomatoes, I promised that we’d rectify these gaps in her experience.  If there was time, we’d at least drive by Nashville’s Downtown Presbyterian Church, possibly the only Egyptian Revival church in the country.

So far, so good with keeping promises.  And the next time you’re in Nashville, you should certainly eat at Husk.  You won’t be disappointed!  I don’t keep a list of “best lunches ever,” but if I did, that would definitely be in the top five.  And the fried green tomatoes – served with homemade pimento cheese – were more than spectacular.

But then came a long afternoon’s drive from Nashville to Memphis, with a long, reflective conversation about Everything Under The Sun.  And one of those topics – another promise kept – was Star Trek: Into Darkness.  Both of my children had already seen the movie, but somehow I hadn’t had time or opportunity until Monday afternoon, right before I left for my ACL adventures.  Again, if you haven’t seen the movie, you probably should, especially if you’re interested in the intersections and interactions between factory-style thinking (as represented, at least for me, by the command-and-control approach of Admiral Marcus) and joyful community (as represented, again for me, by the amazing bond that young Captain Kirk builds with his crew).

I don’t want to spoil the plot if you haven’t seen it.  But let’s just say, for the record, that I stand by the answer I gave an online-course participant several days ago.  A longtime Star Trek fan, she’d asked me who my favorite captain was, and I told her “Kirk and Picard, in an absolute tie.”

There’s something about those two different, but oddly related, styles of leadership that’s deeply connected with our ongoing themes of pirates and champions and badasses.  As Emily put it to me yesterday, “Kirk is a real badass, not a fake one.”

Think about that for a moment.  Or for several moments, if you have time.  I’m still pondering the implications, both for me and for the joyful communities in which I participate as leader or follower.

true badass, as Emily defined the term for me, is someone who sees a greater end, a greater goal – like saving someone’s life or preserving a whole civilization – and is willing to break a petty, bureaucratic rule or several on the way to achieve that.  By contrast, a fake badass adopts a posture of rebellion or possibly rebels for rebellion’s sake.  Either way, a fake badass ironically ends up serving the aims of the system he or she claims to defy, while a true badass serves the people.

That’s a big difference.  Perhaps we could make a similar distinction between true champions and false champions, too.  Maybe a true champion works with those he or she is protecting and defending, while a false one, claiming to work for them or on their behalf, really serves the false champion’s own sense of self-importance … or something.  Perhaps, as we discussed on Google+ last weekend, it’s related to the difference between individualized instruction and personalized learning.  What do you think?

I’m not sure one could make a true pirate and false pirate distinction.  As George put it on Google+ the other day,

I have a local colleague who is bigger into avoiding cutesy false labels than I am. Well, in reality we have different lists of what offends, and we try to be empathetic when something offends the other person. She hates “Talk Like a Pirate Day” because of what pirates really do. (I have not asked whether she forgives Disney and Johnny Depp for further entrenching the cute, fun glorification aspects.) So it’s a no-brainer for me to avoid encouraging all the pirate-happy students in the hallways as I used to. And the “Teach Like a Pirate” author won’t be visiting our department for PD, I can guarantee you.

What other implications and connections do you see, builders and sustainers of joyful communities?  How can we bring these threads together in our own lives and situations?  And how can we invite poor, exhausted Ms. X and Mr. Y, and their terrified and exhausted Powers That Be, to put away the false postures of compliance  and fake badassery and become true champions of the communities they belong to?

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Published in: on June 28, 2013 at 12:39 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] and reconnections that had been forming.  The Star Trek captains and related themes from Friday are connected somehow, too – and not just because my “ex-steps” and I used to […]

  2. […] we’ve been discussing here.  There’s the thread of leadership in general, with the Star Trek captains as exemplars.  Connections themselves are important, both in learning and in community-building. […]


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