‘Now the ears of my ears awake…’


I talked in a earlier post about the need for a new language of sustainability. Apart from a few forward looking businesses, poetry doesn’t usually have a place in the business world. However, poetry is one way for us to awake or re-awake to the beauty of language and the world around us.

It strikes me that in most business writing about sustainability and ‘green’ issues, there is a distinct lack of connection with the natural, for example invoking the senses. This lack of connection encourages us to continue to view the earth as something separate from us, rather than the source of life which we need to cherish. If we do want to engage people (whether in their capacity as employees, members of the general public, suppliers etc) then I would suggest that we need to encourage people to start to re-connect with the world around them.

To give you an example, I picked Starbucks at random to see what language they were using (I must be in need of a coffee). It turns out that their mission is ‘To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.’ This is a fine mission statement. And the use of the word ‘spirit’ suggests that they would be open to appealing to the human spirit. They have some nice features on their ‘Shared planet’ webpages – for example being able to take a look around a green store. It all sounds worthy, such as recycling coffee grounds and using reclaimed materials.

But it is hardly living up to their mission statement of ‘inspiring’. Why not take the language one stage further? When talking about coffee grounds, there is an ideal opportunity to appeal to the sense of smell – the coffee grounds which produced the heady scent of freshly brewed coffee, can now be used to help your garden grow – imagine the scent of the flowers filling your garden. Or when talking about using reclaimed wood, why not then talk about the forests around Seattle, the experience of walking in the forest? ‘This is what inspires us, which makes us want to preserve the forests. What inspires you?’ Of course, the hard facts need to be included as well, but there is a place for the spirit.

I will leave you with ee cumming’s poem ‘I thank You God for most this amazing’. If every Chief Executive were to recite this on their way into work, what difference would this make to the way business was conducted?

i thank You God for most this amazing

day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees

and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything

which is natural which is infinite which is yes

 

(i who have died am alive again today,

and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth

day of life and love and wings: and of the gay

great happening illimitably earth)

 

how should tasting touching hearing seeing

breathing any–lifted from the no

of all nothing–human merely being

doubt unimaginable You?

 

(now the ears of my ears awake and

now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

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