by Peter Block
Have You Hugged Your Goalie
Business News Briefs
According to most reliable reports, the millennium is due in about 10 months. There is some technical controversy whether we are headed for 1900 or 2000, but as long as it is a new millennium, why get picky about what name we give it. At least there is some agreement about the date. In the 16th century we couldn't agree on the number of days in a year. Finally, in 1582 Pope Gregory XIII proclaimed that Thursday, October 4 would be followed by Friday, October 15. We lost 11 days for the sake of common calendar. I miss them.
The millennium holds our attention because it carries with it the possibility of something changing, something awakening. We don't know whether it will be the dawn of Aquarius or the beginning of a long night, but whichever appeals to us, it will be the change in our own experience of our life that will give it meaning.
If there is a wish for our own transformation, then it will need to come with a change in our language, the questions we ask and the words we use to answer.
Out of these questions has come the language of installation, of measurement and accurate gauging. We have valued performance, labor saving devices and have gotten excited about traveling, shopping and finding a partner electronically.
The economist asks questions about how to sustain financial growth, the value and stability of money, the beauty of a free market, especially one we can manipulate. They want to know how to make more, save more, spend more. The market has become our cathedral and on most days is the lead story. Christmas was measured by retail sales, winter is detailed in the price of a barrel of oil. The language of economics is about barter, negotiation, incentives, return on investment and self interest. The economist and the engineer seem a happy couple.
If the millennium is a turning point, it will have to put these two archetypes on a back burner. The questions will become more important and we will become impatient with answers that once pleased us. The questions will have to change and the answers will be of a different nature. The engineer and the economist will have to yield to the philosopher and artist. A new couple, held in low esteem in this culture.
A quote from philosopher Jack Lindsay,
“The purpose of thought is not to solve the riddle
of the universe, but to create it. The function of
philosophy is not to systemize thought, but to create
Installation, measurement and gauging will be replaced by the language of surrender, of invitation, of acceptance and refusal. We will replace discussions of whether something worked with discussions of whether something was worth doing.
This change in language will have to
take place in the workplace. Our organizations set the
style for us now. In this century they have replaced the
church and government as institutions that shape our way
of life. Therefore our organizations will be part of this
shift in focus. They, with us, will take seriously that
they are more than economic entities and are powerful
players in the future of democracy, community, revolution
and resolution of suffering and well-being.
Also, saying no is a commitment. A stance that may be hard to defend. Perhaps we should be asked to pay a price for our refusal. If we pay for it, we know it has value for us. The elegance of saying no is that we turn from what others have in mind for us and begin to confront ourselves with what we are able to say yes to. If you believe in a calling, then after the refusal, we will discover how to say yes to ourselves.
There are other words to learn at another time. They are Engagement, Apology, Consent, Faith, Justice, Redemption, Volunteerism and Surrender.
If you think I have lost it, you are
right. Someone recently summarized a presentation I made
as an invitation to a Tupperware party. At first I felt
slightly wounded, but then I thought maybe she was right.
What's the problem? Using kitchenware as an excuse to
come together. Is it better to come together for the
bottom line? Could we imagine moving from the conference
room to the kitchen. Maybe this is the beginning of my
Tupperware phase. We could even think in terms of
Tupperware Strategies for Continuous Improvement. I can
see a product emerging. After all, this century isn't