I have been carrying the August 9th Economist around with me for a couple of weeks. There was something about one of the lead pieces that I intuitively knew held something for me … I needed to wait for the time to process. That happened over the weekend.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn who died on the 3rd August, wrote what has been described as “the most powerful single indictment of a political regime ever to be levied in modern times” against the terror of Stalin. The article goes on to ‘lament’ the absence of intellectual dissent in today’s contemporary society, or at least how political correctness has hurt the impact of what is said publicly. (eg. There would not be even a ripple if Noam Chomsky were invited to speak at the ‘annual capitalist jamboree’ in Davos’)
The Economist piece was called ‘Speaking the Truth to Power’. I expected to muse about the voices on the margins of society and their prophetic calling to account of those in social and economic power. I ended in a very different place, following from the theme from last week’s blog.
I wondered about the power I have over myself. When in (social or economic) power, it takes extraordinary courage and insight to suspend our own judgements about the nature of reality and listen to the dissenting voices. However, it is frequently the voices from the margins that hold the key to our healing and health. They are the voices of revelation. They uncover things that we suppress, either consciously or unconsciously. They unveil the blind spots, allowing us to address the things that have the potential to disqualify us from achieving our goals.
And so I ask myself, what are the voices about me that challenge the stories I tell myself about who I am? As I processed this with Maria over the weekend, she suggested that it would ultimately be a liberating exercise. I doubted it at the time. After some more hours of conversation and thinking, I suspect she is right.
I’m not sure this blog is the appropriate place to bare my soul; however to illustrate what I am talking about, I can repeat something from my journal notes yesterday; “I am an ordinary urban professional with delusions of greatness.’
I have begun to apply this to our business too. It goes against the grain of conventional marketing to downplay one’s capacity and abilities. It takes the same courage and insight to listen to the alternative or marginal voices about who we are at Ergo for us to see our blind spots and the realities we suppress … but hopefully that too will be liberating.
By the way, happy spring. Nature’s instincts for new life are everywhere already aren’t they; blossom ready to burst. I wonder if our weekend inclination to roast some capsicum with garlic and parsley to eat on fresh bread falls into the same category?
Perhaps allowing the dissenting voices about our own lives will also take root produce some new life within.
Col, I’ve really loved your train of thought these last few weeks. It seems like quite an introspective time for yourself, and one I’ve enjoyed following through this blog.
I really get what you’re saying, and love the “I am an ordinary urban professional with delusions of greatness.” I feel a similar way myself at the moment.
My question to you is, are you really ordinary if you can define yourself as ordinary? And what does this mean in terms of how you go about being Col accross all facets of your life – professional, family and ‘other’?
Does identifying as ordinary mean that you aren’t? Hmmm. I don’t think so. The point for me is that somehow I have bought into the myth that greatness is ‘better’ than ordinariness.
By synchronicity my eyes latched onto a book I’d never seen before as I pondered all this in Readings, Carlton yesterday, called An Encyclopaedia of an Ordinary Life. It was the reflections of someone who hadn’t done anything newsworthy, but clearly had lived a full life.
By whose definition do we define greatness anyway? Why are some of us inclined to think our lives are more valuable if we play on a global stage, engage in ‘important’ stuff, or relate to ‘significant people’.
The language becomes problematic, but in the end this is about the question of what really matters? Greatness surely must follow our answer to this question, and for mine, what matters is not just about ends, but means. It is about character. It is about who I am, not what I do. (That’s my head talking)
I am a blues supporter. Fevola is one of the best kicks for goal I’ve ever seen, but he’s a tool. Good kick + wanka is not equal to great. How do we compare the orange lady at the local junior club with your Brendons? What framework do we use?
And are we OK with being a great orange lady? Really. No, really OK. (the overuse of ‘really’ is a sure sign of literary ordinariness!)
How does deep contentment with what is, live alongside a healthy drive and ambition to be as excellent as we could be?
After reading your blog I’d like to offer this para from Otto Scharmer. Personally I think we are in the ‘ordianry’ person’s age, as ordinary people have never been so empowered in any other era in human history, to be able to change their own history.
Quote: “We live in an era of intense conflict and massive institutional failures, a time of painful endings and of hopeful beginnings. It is a time that feels as if something profound is shifting and dying while something else, as the playwright and Czech president, Václav Havel, put it, wants to be born: “I think there are good reasons for suggesting that the modern age has ended. Today, many things indicate that we are going through a transitional period, when it seems that something is on the way out and something else is painfully being born. It is as if something were crumbling, decaying, and exhausting itself—while something else, still indistinct, were rising from the rubble.”