Addressing Research Obstacles

For the purposes of this documentary assignment I have researched as an “outsider.”   I am not privy to any information that is not freely available to anyone else, save for those who do not have access to databases like JSTOR for relevant journal articles.   I suppose with some creative thinking I could count myself as an “insider” just based on the amount of research I have done regarding this topic and the diverse source material in which I’ve immersed myself over the past two years.  Even still, I consider my knowledge on this topic to be at best elementary, with much more to learn ahead.    

Given the depth of the research I have done, I feel comfortable laying out the basic framework of Terror Management Theory (TMT) for my audience.    As a result, the tone of my documentary is confident.   I’m not merely advocating a philosophy or some wishy-washy theoretical gymnastics.  TMT produces empirical evidence that demands consideration, and I have found that Ernest Becker’s ideas provide the most reasonable explanation for the data.

No one has been threatened by my research, but I do know that some will feel threatened by the material I present.  TMT has the unique capability to cut deeply into its own subject matter.  For many, Becker’s ideas will fundamentally contradict their most deeply held beliefs, and in doing so will cause them to respond in terror.   I hope that some will recognize that terror in the context of its inspiration and perhaps use that as a reason to further examine Becker’s ideas.   I have found Becker can be very sneaky in that way.

Why a Visual Narrative?

They say a picture says a thousand words, and it often does.  But sometimes a picture only says ten words, or it says a thousand words it’s not supposed to.  Pictures are not entirely  unpredictable, though.  Their effects are evident with a little research and an artist’s eye.  By altering color, contrast, and even placement, we can change the whole effect of any given image on an audience. 

Pairing images with text gives us multi-dimensional opportunities to tell our stories.  People love photography for a reason; photos often say things that text can’t.  And people love reading for a reason; text often says things that photos can’t.  When we combine text and images to tell a story, we take advantage of an opportunity to showcase both of their strengths, combined into one cohesive narrative. 

Images can strengthen readers’ associations with the subject matter, but they can also enhance a piece’s rhetorical power.  Allowing the audience to look into the eyes of that child is a far superior pathetic appeal than trying to simply describe the child’s circumstances.  The pictures we select, and their composition, can instantly boost or destroy an ethical appeal.  While images are not the best for logical appeals (at least in the sense of a narrative) they can tie in well to textual arguments. 

Even slight changes in the way we pair and modify pictures and text can have dramatic effects on what our audiences take away from our stories.  For example:

This man is preparing for a role as Santa Claus in a Christmas play at his church.

 

This man just killed three children he met on the internet. 

Isn’t it amazing how much a story can change with a few simple alterations? 

A Brief Introduction

It is a shame that on the one day my friends and family gather to celebrate my life and shower me with compliments, I won’t be there to enjoy it.  Notes for My Funeral is a simple blog with a simple purpose: to help the poor soul who gets stuck writing my eulogy to do it right.  If there is an afterlife, I am certain a botched story or punch line would leave me with enough unfinished business to haunt my eulogist for decades.  I can’t let that happen to either of us.   Also, I think a well lived and documented life has much to offer the living.  I hope some readers will learn something from these pages before I succumb to my destiny as a root inspector. 

This blog’s subtitle, In Totidem Verbis, Non Omnis Moriar, is Latin for “In so many words, not all of me will die.”  I stole the second half from Horace’s Carmina.  Is it pretentious? Absolutely.   But I like the sentiment.  As we all know (some of us more than others), once something is published on the internet, it can never be un-published.  The words I use here to share stories and ideas will outlast me and, in some sense, make me immortal.   For free.  Which is exactly what I’m charging you to read them.   So go read, and please, if you have the occasion to attend my funeral, ensure my eulogist is not screwing things up.