"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Vampire Thesis...an Okie Ramble

What does a vampire need to stay "alive"? New blood, fresh blood. Trite? Corny? Maybe, but true.

I suppose some finance or philosophy guru probably has already "formulated" this theory, but it has become increasingly clear to me in the last few months and weeks, that every organization, every institution, every human, needs new blood to survive.
I'd call it the Vampire Thesis.

What happens when new blood isn't available? We get in ruts, and ruts are just open-ended graves. That's why universities hiring staff and faculty from within never challenge or discover new thoughts. That's why people who have lived in towns and cities and states for long periods of time can't see the flaws and needs. That's why governments that only use "insiders" rarely have new ways of thinking. That's why the Okie legislature went berserk over The flaming Lips.

My friend Joyce Carney of The Eakley Country Connection newspaper has an apt metaphor. They used to raise rabbits, and when too much inbreeding occurred, the offspring couldn't hold both ears erect. "They're lop-eared," she say, referring to hide-bound people who avoided all change.

Visiting the Paseo Arts Festival today is just the latest evidence. I go there for rejuvenation, for inspiration, for ideas on what i could paint. That's why reading the NY Times on Sunday is so important...it forces new thoughts. That's why meeting new people, renewing old friendships, attending new classes, reading new books, traveling to new places are so essential to creative survival...new blood. "Travel thickens," said Will Rogers.

John Stuart Mill in On Liberty applied this to the free marketplace of ideas, urging freedom of criticism for all ideas...If ideas are not challenged, they become prejudices and dry and stale and ineffective.

That's why no student should have only one teacher...we all need new blood. That's why married couples need to fine new discoveries together, to keep boredom at bay, to stay out of a rut. That's why businesses and universities and college departments need new people, new generations. No matter how hard we try, we become creatures of habit, living in a comfort zone that is hard to break out of, and new blood forces us to consider other possibilities.

New blood is coming to the UCO department of mass communication. We had a huge infusion four years ago when Journalism and Communication combined. We didn't even see that benefit ahead of time. Since then, the department has grown "quantitatively and qualitatively," as the academics put it. Now there will be a new chair and assistant chair, and we have younger faculty members coming in from different disciplines who see things differently, who think differently, who have more energy. Where is it going? I don't know...and that's good.

I'll admit, much of this scree is prompted by packing up stuff for the move to a new office. Books and stuff and memories are being boxed up. Some stuff is going in the trash bin. Some stuff is coming home to the garage, and everything will be rearranged...new bookshelves, new office layout, new arrangements on the walls, a new sign on the door. People keep asking me how I'm doing. I obviously have a lot of uncertainty, and moving can be sad. The change will be hard in several ways because I will be out of a 19-year rut...and it had become a rut. But the answer is, so far, I'm fine. I'm being forced to rethink who I am and what I do. I'm going to have more time for creativity, and less time on meetings and paperwork. So instead of being depressed, I'm being challenged, I'm getting an infusion of new blood just by moving, just by being a professor. I never thought of myself as a change-agent, a catalyst, but I've gradually become one. Lots of people don't like change, can't handle it, but have to go through it anyway. I've grown to like change, but I've witnessed a lot of it in other people and organizations. Now it's my turn.

I know, I know, vampires are parasites. We're not, but we still feed off friends and colleagues and thrive on new blood.

Ursa th' professa'

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