nytimes

Popularizing Christianity

I don't know much about David Brooks. His name is familiar and if I take 30 seconds, the internet reminds me that he writes a column in the NYTimes. I've also heard him on NPR, and maybe PBS. If I still regularly tuned into PBS.

But I'm not writing so much about the career of David Brooks as I am about his life's work (there is, in fact, a difference). And his life's work is relevant to my career work because his life work is about marketing complex ideas to the mainstream world.

Growing up, I was raised, in part, by the son of a minister. The denomination isn't important so much as, one I'm still not a religious person, and two, our life was laced with religious ideas and values, morals, ponderings, etc. We didn't go to church frequently, but morality was big in our household and with a father who was not only the son of a minister but also a man of science, evolution was frequently a topic in addition to religion. 

The point: I found it interesting, even at such an age, that religion was so...sticky. Kids, like myself, didn't really get it, nor were we going to read a bible to ease our understanding. Before I understood how many children's books existed (those I hadn't seen obviously did not exist!) I remember suggesting: what about a book telling the story of Adam and Eve, but for kids. And it should additionally explain evolution. All content would be in kid-speak but the core, sticky stuff would also be presented. It was sort of like a book for meeting in the middle.

Back to David Brooks. He takes complex ideas and popularizes them for the mainstream such as Christianity and other impenetrable subjects. My 5-year-old brain had no idea what 'popularize' meant, nor of any streams except those behind our house. But I think I was kinda' talking about the same thing as Brooks.

And today, reading the opening paragraph of this article, I thought about my most complex client: highly skilled, talented, experienced architect and designer, who needs to popularize deeply intellectual work. This clients wants and needs to distill their ideas for the mainstream public. 

Why? Because they like many, want to grow business by acquiring more customers, and they like many struggle with the same problem as other firms: the mainstream customer does not typically understand the inner workings of a deeply intellectual artist.

And here there's a tug of war: does popularizing mean cheapening? Does popularizing mean omitting? But the tug of war can be a dance; there can exist fluidity in the communication between your brilliance, your creative genius, your spark, and the words, images, patterns, and thought-provoking choices any business makes in order to meet their ideal customer. It's just a matter, I think, of recognizing that you're not, in fact, compromising anything in this act of 'marketing'. Instead, you're doing your client a service by meeting them in the middle.