Learning quite a bit recently about system change and personal change and how this relates to the issues that our society, economy and environment face. But do things need to change? Is that just a personal point of view, rooted in the course and the things that I see? Just because I see something and might believe it, is no reason for anyone else to. So, it’s always good to get ‘evidence’ to help validate my own emerging views that the way the world and society works needs to change if we’re all going to live ‘happily ever after’. Now, you can find loads of support for a view like that in every ‘eco’/Climate Change/green book/article/movie you come across. But, I don’t really count them because ‘they would say that, wouldn’t they?’. So, where would the ‘evidence’ really count? How about a publication whose very essence, name and readership is inextricably linked to the success and continuation of the current system – the Financial Times.
So, it was with pleasant surprise to read an interview with Laurence Freeman who runs some Christian meditation outfit in London that includes members of the IMF and Blackstone on it’s Board. In the interview he talks about success and money (something that will be important to many FT readers):
‘“Perfectionism is like a virus. In religion, it can lead to fundamentalism and self-loathing. The secular equivalent is success. If you only judge yourself by success – of your job, your marriage, your children, even – you are setting yourself up for failure or a sense of inadequacy. Learning to meditate, you have to unlearn perfection and the need for success.”’
Given the economic crisis, unlearning success, or rather rediscovering failure, seems especially relevant today. I ask what he makes of it all.
“Clearly, the crisis is hurting those at the bottom most,” he says. “But even at the top there is anxiety, a sense of failure and, perhaps, shame. Clearly, we have to deal with the surface turbulence and strive for the best solutions to minimise suffering and preserve justice. However, the depths of these forces of change come close to, or actually participate in, humanity’s spiritual stratum. This means we cannot manipulate or exploit them but must strive to understand and go with them. This requires a subtlety of wisdom. It also makes one wonder if the crisis is symptomatic of broader change, a new axial age in which old assumptions and ways of living are breaking down.”
When asked about the unfocussed demands of the Occupy Movement he says….
“That’s understandable. They are protesting against fat cats, sure. But the movements’ deeper value is to witness what is happening – even if it’s not yet clear what the meaning is. Still, we have time to think about it: how long will this crisis last, five or 10 years? We must think about limits. We have become so inebriated with success.”
“You can put ethics courses in business schools but you can’t legislate for ethics. What people need is an experience of goodness, which has to come from within. That’s where meditation comes in. If you are too neurotic and inebriated with success to give yourself time to take care of your interior life, you are going to spin out of control. ”
So, interesting that the FT both interviewed him and printed it. Well done them. But also, I think it’s really interesting that he doesn’t think that this is a ‘flash-in-the-pan’ thing. That he thinks that the length of the crisis (‘5 to 10 years?’) will give us a longer time to think about all this stuff and in doing so, provide us with an opportunity to decide whether (money and) success are the things we should be aiming for. Good stuff.