Preservation of the Soul at Work

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 Preservation of the Soul at Work

--By Sujit Mundul

David Whyte in his book, The Heart Aroused, attempted to keep what is tried and true, good and efficient at the centre of our present work life, while opening ourselves to a mature appreciation of the hidden and rather dangerous inner seas where our passions and creativity --  lie waiting. 

Let us look at the hidden and neglected side of organisational life, where a woman’s or a man’s soul has been forced to reside. Modern commercial life arises from a love of the upper strata, of material products, of organisational power; it endeavours to celebrate the material, colourful portion of existence. Perhaps, it is the world as we see it or would like to see it and as it most makes sense to us. It has been the basis of the western affluence (now some Asian economies copied the culture to garner the affluence), by the life it has provided many in the west and being the basis of recommendation to many aspirants in the others parts of the globe.

Wordsworth said,“ a dark invisible workmanship that reconciles discordant elements and makes them move in one society.”

Not because what is dark and invisible is necessarily better, but because it is not now joined to what is light and visible to us every day in the organisational world.  Seemingly, it has been pushed away and ignored. David Whyte has been of the opinion that this split between our work life and that part of our soul life forced underground, seems to be at the root of much of our current unhappiness.  It is now required to look at the stress this split causes in the human psyche and the way the soul attempts to heal and preserve its life amidst the pressures of schedules and ambitions of an individual. Researches over a period of time have revealed that this healing is not a simple recipe for a happy work life. We need to be aware of the fact that there are energies and powers in the world that are greater than any human endeavour, even the mighty business world, which we tend to hold in so much esteem.  

Nevertheless our inheritance may tell us, work is not and never has been the very centre of the human universe; and the universe, with wonderful compassion, is willing to take endless pains to remind us of that fact. Once the basic necessities are taken care of, there are other more immediate urgencies central to human experience, and perhaps it is these urgencies which are continually breaking through our fondest hopes for an ordered work life. The split between what is nourishing at work and what is agonising is the very chasm from which our personal destiny emerges, as David Whyte argues.

The field of human creativity has long been a constant source of conflict between the upper world we inhabit everyday and the deeper unleashed energies alive in every element of life. Camille Paglia in her book “Sexual Personel” has written brilliantly on this turbulent relationship between the two worlds, one seen every day, while the other remains half hidden.  The world of commerce has, till now, run a mile from this hidden world.  Organisations have more often seen these underground and seemingly eccentric desires as a source of continual interruption into their production and purpose. The good news is that this is changing. Continually calling on its managers and line workers for more creativity, dedication and adaptability, the organisational world is inching towards the very place from where that dedication, creativity and adaptability must emanate; the turbulent place where the soul of an individual is formed and finds expression.

These, probably the first tentative corporate steps towards understanding personal artistry and individual creativity, are bringing to life a curled natural boundary where human begins have always lived uneasily, – one foot planted solidly in the light filled world, the other desperately looking for identity in the dark unknown.  Despite our best hopes and efforts for ourselves and for humanity, this other hidden energy is constantly welling up from the very deep of existence. 

From the organisational side, if companies ignore the darker under-belly of their employee’s lives for a well-meaning approach, emphasising only the positive, David Whyte points out that they will be forced to rely on expensive management pyramids to manipulate their workers at the price of commitment. One has to remember that adaptability and native creativity on the part of the work-force comes through the door only with their passions; the passions come only with their souls. I believe that their souls love hidden springs boiling and welling at the gravitational point of existence more than they love the company. Perhaps this is a lesson that most of the successful corporates would require to learn sooner than later for their sustainability.

Mundul is former CEO of Standard Chartered Bank Nepal where he currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors.

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