The story of "Lift Every Voice and Sing"

A song many consider the black national anthem rises again in the United States.

Image source: Herlanzer/Milan M/Shutterstock/Big Think
  • Written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson around 1900, "Lift Every Voice and Sing" tells a haunting story of spiritual survival.
  • The hymn is considered by many to be the black national anthem and has seen a resurgence lately in popular culture.
  • Music has a way of helping us feel others' story.
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This is how an illusionist targets your unconscious mind

Juggling conscious experience with the machinations of the mind can create the ultimate audience experience.

  • Magicians are actually very effective applied psychologists. They're familiar with the workings of both the conscious and unconscious mind.
  • During his act, renowned psychological illusionist Derren Brown uses the technique of bafflement to bypass participants' conscious filters and get a maximum response to the trick.
  • Derren Brown returns to the stage with his new live, one-man show, Showman. Check it out here.
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Want to be a better leader? Take off the mask.

The best leaders don't project perfection. Peter Fuda explains why.

  • There are two kinds of masks leaders wear. Executive coach Peter Fuda likens one to The Phantom of the Opera—projecting perfectionism to hide feelings of inadequacy—and the other to The Mask, where leaders assume a persona of toughness or brashness because they imagine it projects the power needed for the position.
  • Both of those masks are motivated by self-protection, rather than learning, growth and contribution. "By the way," says Fuda, "your people know you're imperfect anyway, so when you embrace your imperfections they know you're honest as well."
  • The most effective leaders are those who try to perfect their craft rather than try to perfect their image. They inspire a culture of learning and growth, not a culture where people are afraid to ask for help.

Individuals and organizations can learn more from Peter Fuda at enixa.co.

Ethan Hawke: You are everything and you are nothing

The actor's greatest heroes exhibited humility in their actions, a view he tries to emulate.

  • Ethan Hawke is inspired by others' excellence and ability to see the context of the larger community, those who value their work but don't take it too seriously.
  • One of his heroes, River Phoenix, exhibited this kind of humility by taking on roles that were meaningful to him but were seen as controversial.
  • "Phil Hoffman used to say this all the time, that it's the most important thing in the world and it doesn't matter, and you have to hold that coin together and flip it around. It's all true all the time," he says.

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Joke theft: Is it really an issue in comedy?

There are several levels of comedy plagiarism, says Paul F. Tompkins.

  • Comedian Paul F. Tompkins explains the complexities of plagiarism in the comedy world; comedians all spend time together, processing the same current events—to some degree, it's natural that they may arrive at the same conclusions and jokes.
  • "There are certain things that human beings just are predisposed to laugh at and we're just kind of all putting our own spin on it," he says.
  • Some comedians may do it knowingly and others completely by accident, almost by osmosis. There are levels of plagiarism, and if you ask most comedians, says Tompkins, they will have had an innocent experience of realizing something they wrote was not truly theirs.
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