Things That Made Us Say, "O. Hm."
As an end of year gift to all of you, here are a few O. Hm. moments from a few of the people who brought you the “O. Hm. Moment.”
When I was working at the Oregon Humanities booth at Wordstock in October, a man stopped to spin the Wheel of Cogitation. He landed on, “Someone unlike you whom you’re curious about.” He stood silent for a long time, clearly stumped, until he said, “I’m not curious about people who aren’t like me.” It was as if he realized the impact of the words as they came out of his mouth. Even though he had never consciously thought about it before, it seemed hard for him to admit. You could see on his face that he did not want this to be the case.
—Laura Becker, Office Administrator
While researching my Yiddish-speaking great-grandfather’s immigration journey in 1904 from the Russian Pale of Settlement to Paterson, New Jersey, I came across the term luftmensch. Literally “air-person,” it was used by Yiddish speakers in much the way we’d use “head in the clouds,” to mean a person preoccupied with intellectual pursuits and without productive occupation. It was a pejorative, I think, but for a community that so revered scripture and its study, not exclusively so. My discovery of this term led me to reflect on the hazards, and rewards, of allowing one’s thoughts to drift, unfettered by practicality.
—Eric Gold, Communications Assistant
One of my O. Hm. moments this year was inspired by a blended dessert. At the Oregon Arts Summit this fall, I heard a story about how a fast-food chain wanted to increase sales of its milkshake, so, it hired a consultant to ask customers, “What do you hire your milkshake to do?” The answers weren’t predictable. For example, some hired strawberry chunks to jolt their brains with something new to process on an otherwise routine commute to work. The speaker encouraged us—arts and culture professionals—to ask what our audiences were hiring our organizations to do. What do people hire the humanities to do? I imagined a sugar rush of surprise answers swirling in my brain. How I did not end up at Burgerville that same day in the name of research remains a mystery.
—Kamla Hurst, Development Director
During the last Think & Drink on religion and civic life, Willamette University professor and Oregon Humanities board member David Gutterman was describing a recent study by the Pew Research Center on religious knowledge, which found that most Americans are ignorant about religion. David said he didn’t think ignorance was the source of religious divisiveness in the United States; arrogance, he said, was the problem. This really rang true to me: later, I wondered how many times I’d shut down during heated discussions, arrogantly refusing to listen because I thought I was right.
—Kathleen Holt, Editor/Communications Director
I recently heard an interview with the director of a new film about the American Revolution. He talked about how he chose to film the scenes in England with a mounted camera with wide-angle shots while he filmed the scenes in the colonies with a hand-held camera and zoomed in close on faces and interactions, almost never allowing the viewer to see beyond the people involved. This approach was intended to convey a shaky versus established environment, a chaotic versus stately political landscape, new scenes shaped by personality and ambition rather than tradition. I had never given much thought to how the framing of shots in film could convey so many important, but indirect, messages. I’m watching movies differently now.
—Jennifer Allen, Director of Programs
During Think & Drink on women, global media, and pop culture (featuring Jensine Larsen, founder of World Pulse media; Andi Zeisler, cofounder of Bitch magazine; and author and musician Sarah Dougher), I recognized, again, the value of one woman’s work in creating a better world for others. Larsen’s work is amazing. I bookmarked this link to World Pulse magazine and have shared it with friends.
—Carole Shellhart, Finance Manager