Made it to Friday. Sad news learned yesterday as Dennis Melton, a longtime Concurrent contributor and fellow Florida Gator passed away. Giving his wife Cheryl our best and know he is in our prayers.
Hope you have a relaxing weekend ahead, I think I do, haha, famous last words before you’re slammed. We’ve now completed two full weeks of daily shows, some good, some with improvement needed, but all in pursuit of thought provoking topics that help change your perspective from what’s otherwise presented. S
That was kind of what today’s Chronicle editorial was about this morning. It was a cool story about how local firefighters used the Crystal River mall days before its demolition as a training ground. It also quoted the ancient Greeks, which if you’ve listened to enough of these you know I have a bit of a soft spot for so kudos to whoever wrote it. If you don’t know how it works, there’s an editorial board comprised of some Chronicle employees but mainly members of the public and they take turns writing pieces about topics which they are passionate. There’s one writer that opens every one of their editorials with a question like, “have you ever wondered if..”. Every time! It would lose points in my writing classes but normally the topics are pretty good, this morning’s especially.
Speaking of the Chronicle, Just Wright Citrus this morning reflected on the news from earlier this week that the Chronicle will no longer be printing its editions in the Meadowcrest plant. That’s going to be the basis for my topic today, and I would be lying if I said that one take on it that crossed my mind was less than friendly. When the Concurrent was first starting to get into print editions, something we ran monthly for almost two years, I approached the Chronicle and asked them to be our printer. The print manager was thrilled, excellent in his customer service, and we had a contract with the details all drawn up.
Then…the deal was killed. He told me that regrettably the higher ups had deemed the Concurrent a direct competitor to the Chronicle and the Chronicle had a policy against printing for the competition. Competition!? I’m a one man shop against the county’s oldest business with as many years of operation as employees it had, about 120. Hardly a fair competition. Not only that, my chosen name The Concurrent was done so because it literally means something done at the same time as another thing. It’s a reflection of what I always envisioned this would be – a different perspective on local events, not a replacement for reporting news. In conjunction with means sharing the space rather than competing in it. No, my request was denied out of pure spite and while I’m not naïve enough to think my $1,000/mo order would have kept them afloat, it does make me wonder how many other times they shot themselves in the foot out of spite under the last leadership’s decision making.
So yes, that take did cross my mind. But it quickly left. In part because it’s Friday and we have every reason to be happy rather than vengeful, and in part, mostly in fact, because it’s simply not the best perspective on how we should take the news. For that, let’s start here.
I’m teaching two classes at the University of Tampa in the fall: media ethics and principles of advertising. Both have the same single foundational piece to them, but it might not be what you think.
I take these classes seriously because if you can help teach the foundational piece, then you can change the direction of these young lives inarguably and immeasurably for the better. Here’s 20 seconds with the fictional creative director Don Draper, who is now basically synonymous with school board member Thomas Kennedy if you’ve listened to the past shows, but here is Don Draper’s describing what that one foundational piece is in advertising. *play audio*
In ethics, it’s the same thing. Remember life, liberty, and property proposed by John Locke that Thomas Jefferson plagiarized for the Declaration of Independence? And how this was changed to the pursuit of happiness instead? Let’s go back to the ancient Greeks like the Chronicle did this morning. That’s an Artistotilian concept that’s popular in virtue theory which is a subsection of Nicomacean ethics called Eudaimonia. Eudaimonia. It doesn’t have a great English translation but it roughly means human flourishing or, to put it another way, the pursuit of happiness. But it’s not happiness as you might define it, with my students I joke that happiness is a beach penthouse with a million TikTok followers, no it’s more the happiness you get like collapsing into bed at the end of the long day. In this way, it can be thought almost more like striving than like happiness. But this is what I try to teach my students, how to understand, and maybe even stumble their way into, happiness.
There’s a psychological principle called hedonic adaptation, and pseudo-intellectuals like myself have seized upon it and developed it into a little more of a colloquial term called the hedonic treadmill. The hedonic treadmill is the idea that anything you once wished you had, you’ll become comfortable with once you obtain it and you’ll suddenly wish for more thus draining your happiness for what you don’t have, even if it’s once what you always thought you wanted. This has been demonstrated through numerous studies, who wouldn’t want to study if money can buy happiness?, in which they ask people how much money they think they would need to be happy and almost everyone from $25,000 per year to $10,000,000 per year says somewhere around double then they would be achieve noticeable happiness beyond their current state. Some studies do suggest that once you get over a half million dollars a year, you are measurably happier, but most of the studies say that the line of demarcation is actually much lower. Anything over $75,000 per year, most studies say, and no matter how much more you make, the hedonic treadmill will kick in. You’ll eventually grow accustomed to it, and you’ll always be wondering what more happiness lies just out of your reach.
My favorite sportscaster, the one that says Brooklyum, has a wonderful saying about this. He often repeats, don’t try to be happier than happy. Don’t try to be happier than happy. It’s a great way to take at least one foot off the hedonic treadmill, if you can do it. I teach numerous other ways in my classes but that’s for another time. I have to finally get to how this relates to the Chronicle plant closing.
As Mike Wright correctly notes, the Chronicle will likely move out of its Meadowcrest location which is largely based around the operation of the press and into a different place. This will be another significant change in a long line of them coming recently from the demolition of the Crystal River Mall to the massive clearings that have been going on mostly around 491 and the Suncoast.
This causes us to do something that is similar to the opposite of the hedonic treadmill, but that neither me nor psychology yet has a good term for. It’s not always looking to the future for happiness, but rather that loss of happiness for what was in the past. The Greeks have a great term for it that we’ve adopted: nostalgia. Nostalgia is particularly important because, while the last part of the word is derived from the Greek algos meaning sadness or despair, the beginning part is from Nostos which means homecoming. It’s literally the despair over homecoming so it’s particularly poignant when we feel unable to connect to places that represent what we think of home.
I want to call this, though, the nostalgic still frame – because that’s what it can be, a paralyzing picture of what once was without the recognition of how good things have gotten or can be. Take 486. On one side, by 491 you have a massive shopping plaza going in and on the other side further down you have nothing but piles of dirt as the Suncoast slices through. But right in the middle of those, you have LKQ. And right next to that, you have a little building that says Damerons which is how LKQ started. But it grew. And now you have a wonderful employer in the county that increases prosperity, and you have a generous family as evident by the other side of 486 that is the YMCA and inside that has the million dollar donation recognition from the Dameron family. So we could look at the original Dameron building through the nostalgic still frame and say, wow, what a great time that was when a small business was finding its way. Or we can look at the fruits of progress and think, those were great times but look at all that’s happened since. And in that, there’s happiness. Will all progress be good? No. Unchecked growth is sprawl.
But neither can we let our nostalgic still frames hold us back from advancing into a time that will benefit so many others. Sorry to see you go, Chronicle building, but excited for what lies ahead.