The moon, the moon

28th April 2014

This details the most beautiful way to describe a lunar eclipse that I have ever heard.

On hearing it, I was immediately swept up; nailed in; sold. It made me see with new eyes. Unforgettable.

Bottle a talent for memorable communication, and you’ve got marketing made.

Language is so powerful. It shapes our thinking and moulds our feelings. I’m bursting to tell you of a new way to think of a lunar eclipse…

But first, the science.

Daniel Kahneman – an economist and Nobel Laureate of psychology- has led our understanding of how framing ideas informs how ideas will be received. The same set of facts, differently presented, results in dramatically different understanding.

Thus, an inoculation which protects 99.7% of a population from a potentially deadly disease is dramatically preferred over one which results in 0.3% of a population dying. The same data are transformed by language into quite different propositions.

In marketing, framing is fundamental. It is an idea as old as the oldest profession, but was much criticised in the 1990s Clinton era, when optimal presentation was characterised as spin. Spin is an unfortunate framing of ‘framing’ itself. It suggests manipulation multiplied by mal intent. I rather call that practice lying. Framing is not lying.

Rather, it is an act of seduction. A best foot forward. A way of presenting in a compelling manner an idea, a thing, or or an event.

An event such as a lunar eclipse, for example.

The man from NASA last week was fully excited about the lunar eclipse which would fall across the continental USA. As Americans looked to the sky, they would see a blood moon – an orange-red glow coming from the sun projecting its faltering light on the lunar surface, peaking out behind the earth blocking our nearest star.

But there’s more! , the man from NASA cried. Imagine you were standing on the moon. Imagine, he said (re-framing the event as a solar eclipse), that you were standing on the moon, looking back at earth. The earth would be surrounded by a golden corona of light from the sun behind it.

He raised his game once more – focusing not on darkness, but on light.

‘Simultaneously, you would see every sunrise and every sunset on the entire planet. All. At once.’

The promise of a lunar eclipse entered the realm of poetry, through the magic of re-framing: for an instant, all of earth’s beginnings and endings witnessed at once. All of life – in one glance.

Attracted by a blood moon? I’ll see your red-orange lunar mush, and raise you all the dawns and dusks of the world.

Brian McIntyre. © 2014.


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