David Whyte: Business of the Church
“…wanting soul life without the dark, warming intelligence of personal doubt is like expecting an egg without the brooding heat of the mother hen.” David Whyte
I picked one of the poet, David Whyte’s book, The Heart Aroused, to study at the Haden School for Spiritual Direction for two reasons. Whyte is the favorite author of the priest I worked with for five years who actually toured with him on sabbatical before our working together. I wanted to understand better the priest I was working with by reading something that was so meaningful to him. Whyte’s message speaks to the “business” of church just as it does to the corporate world, maybe even more so, for the business of the church is taking care of the soul. Whyte’s answer is finding and developing our creativity, which I see now that my priest tries so hard to do daily, and that I do as well. Secondly, my daughter has Whyte as a mentor in her masters creative writing program. My daughter is the essence of creativity, so I see even more clearly why I so admire her. Whyte reminds us that the day we get our desk cleared will never arrive. The empowered manager has an understanding of his own dark side. We must embrace failure as an essential part of the path of creation. We must treat life as a mystery to be lived rather than a problem to be solved. We are called to say no to everything that does not nourish and entice our secret inner life out into the world.
Whyte is not only a poet, but a story teller. I identified with the story of Fionn being innocent and being in the right place at the right time when I did not always deserve it.
Whyte tells the story of Agamemnon and Cassandra as a total split in the internal soul-life of a person with the masculine and feminine turning their backs on one another. Whyte tells the story of Coleridge’s restless ever-moving image of starlings as a perfect description of the shifting starling-like nature of the corporate workplace with shifting boundary lines between chaos and order.
The focalizer or one who focuses a team is a better term than manger. With an overwhelming situation, one might step back and ask for an image. Whyte’s advice when he is lost in the forest is “stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you are not lost.” Trying to run complex companies by imperial command from top down is the most unnecessary burden carried by any manager. It is a lack of trust in the essentials of the system, people. The hierarchical system based on power from the top cannot plan for the wild efflorescence of impossible events we call daily life.
Whyte asks us to deal with simple elements rather than the one complex system, think locally, act locally, intuit globally, let workers have a say in the hiring of team members, let behavior emerge from the bottom up, focus on emergent behavior instead of the final result, stop treating people as if they are animals about to stampede out of control unless you are constantly riding the herd, educate them into everything you know and ask them to learn more than you know, let them experience your failures, and do not form a flock.
Do you have more thoughts?