May Beauty Be Yours

WILLIAM BLAKE, JOHN O’DONOHUE AND THE BUSINESS ROMANTIC: ARTIST, PHILOSOPHER AND BUSINESS THOUGHT LEADER… ON BEAUTY

“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in the way… As a man is, so he sees.”

William Blake

When William Blake was only 20 years old, he wrote what some describe as the most beautiful letter ever written, to a Reverend John Trusler. The letter was a fierce defence of the imagination and the creative spirit.  Blake’s work sprung from a deep spiritual well, as Maria Popova describes, “his was an irreverent reverence, intellectually daring and contemptuous of dogma yet animated by unflinching faith in the human spirit, in our capacity for self-transcendence, and in the ability to ameliorate the sorrowful finitude of our lives by contacting eternity through the supreme conduits of truth and beauty — truth and beauty that continue to radiate from his art. He may have died in poverty, but he lived enriched and electrified by the mirth of creativity”.

The notion of beauty has intrigued and inspired most artists and philosophers throughout time. John O’Donohue, contemporary philosopher, who departed the world suddenly 9 years ago at only 54 years, shared his thoughts on beauty often. In an interview with On Being’s Krista Tippett, John O’Donohue described beauty as not about just niceness or loveliness. “Beauty is about more rounded substantial becoming. And when we cross a new threshold worthily, what we do is we heal the patterns of repetition that were in us that had us caught somewhere. So I think beauty in that sense is about an emerging fullness, a greater sense of grace and elegance, a deeper sense of depth, and also a kind of homecoming for the enriched memory of your unfolding life”.

For Tim Leberecht, aka The Business Romantic, it’s within the organisational context that beauty is most needed.  Tim was one of the mainstage speakers at the TEDSummit in Banff, Canada in 2016. His talk on “the four principles of beautiful organisations” was received with a standing ovation.  Organisations are the microcosms wherein our imaginations, creative spirit, and indeed human spirit converge and have the opportunity to either flourish or flounder, much like the very organisations themselves.

Krista Tippett described John O’Donohue as poetic about the possibility of creating our own inner landscapes of beauty, to keep us vital in the midst of bleak and dangerous surroundings and experiences. “He gave voice to the connection between beauty and those edges of life — “thresholds” was the word he loved — where the fullness of reality becomes more stark and more clear”…

“If you go back to the etymology of the word ‘threshold,’ it comes from ‘threshing,’ which is to separate the grain from the husk. So the threshold, in a way, is a place where you move into more critical and challenging and worthy fullness”.

There are huge thresholds in every life. There are huge thresholds in every organisation.  As in life, so too in the microcosm of workplaces, “the given world that we think is there and the solid ground we are on is so tentative. And a threshold is a line which separates two territories of spirit, and very often how we cross is the key thing”.

Beauty is an edge of becoming.  The future of work must be more than just meaningful, it has to be beautiful. We require a radical reimagining of what it takes now to bring the imagination, creative and human spirit alive to keep people alive and ensure our great organisations thrive.

Jayde Harding