Thursday, March 31, 2011



Perception is crucial to understanding. How you see, and what you see, determine how you will be. Your perception, or your view of reality, is the lens through which you see things. Your perception determines the way that things will behave for you and towards you. We tend to perceive difficulty as disturbance. Ironically, difficulty can be a great friend of creativity. I love the lines from Paul Valéry: 'Une difficulté est une lumiére / Une difficulté insurmontable est un soleil,' i.e. A difficulty is a light; an insurmountable difficulty is a sun. This is a completely different way of considering the awkward, the uneven and the difficult. Deep within us, there is a terrible impulse and drive towards perfection. We want everything flattened into the one shape. We do not like unexpected shapes. One of the essential aspects of beginning to reimagine the workplace is to awaken the ability to welcome that which is difficult and awkward. Frequently the actual work itself if fine, rather it is our image of it which is difficult and awkward. Frequently the actual work itself is fine, rather it is our image of it which makes it appear difficult and awkward.

During a phase of my study in Germany, I became acutely aware of the impossibility of my task. I was working on the Phenomenology of Spirit. Anyone who knows Hegel will readily admit that this long text is magical but difficult to penetrate. My sense of the difficulty of the project began to mirror itself in my presence towards the work. I began to paralyse myself and soon I was not able to work at all. As the German so beautifully says of such blockage: 'Ich stehe mir im Weg,' i.e. I am standing in my own way. I would go to my desk with great commitment, believing that I was going to break through this barrier, but I could not concentrate. The image that kept haunting my mind was the impossibility of my task. Each day I would try anew, but I was paralysed.

One day, I went for a long walk in the forest near Tübingen. In the forest it suddenly occurred to me that Hegel was not the problem, rather it was my image of the task that obstructed me. I came back home immediately, and sat down and scribbled quickly on the page the image of my work that I had constructed. I recognized the power that the image had. When this became clear to me, I was able to distance the image from the actual work itself. After a couple of days, the image had faded and I was back into the rhythm of the work.

Some people have a lot of difficulty at work, even though the work is a genuine expression of their nature, giftedness and potential. The difficulty is not with the work, but rather with their image of the work. The image is not merely a surface; it also becomes a lens through which we behold a thing. We are partly responsible for the construction of our own images and completely responsible for how we use them. To recognize that the image is not the person or the thing is liberating.

No comments:

Post a Comment