How does love fit into the picture?
How does love fit into the picture? avatar

In the rich discussion about social entrepreneurship there is a key issue which I feel is many times left unmentioned or just vaguely stated: what is the role played by our spiritual being, our life force, in this field – on the social entrepreneur as well as on the rest of stakeholders, the rest of society. It is evident that a strong spiritual motivation is present in the mind and private sphere of most of these initiatives, but we do not seem to be able to put it on the table for discussion, to learn more about how it operates. We usually stay on the “means” field: processes, scale, measurable impact. We get trapped in the world of words, of rationality, and tend to ignore the side of the brain (what was it? the right side?) that Pedro Tarak mentioned in the closing panel of the World Leaders Forum in Buenos Aires that we should pay more attention to: the intuitive and creative side.

I was impressed by the BMW Foundation’s highlight, from the previous Mumbai forum, of Ghandi’s phrase: “be the change you want to see in the world”. This catches precisely what I mean: we speak about bringing about change, but how hard do we try ourselves and how well prepared are we to bring about change for others? Change in what? In the sphere of actions, I think there is no doubt: social enterprises have a huge potential to bring about practical improvements in the quality of life of millions. But is this the only level in which we ought to operate? Is this alone what will bring about profound and durable change, the kind of change that will help humanity take a more decisive leap forward in its evolution as a spiritual being? Maybe, but I wonder: I think humanity has always, always, had the means to solve basic issues like poverty. More so in the last centuries, when we have achieved impressive technological breakthroughs. But what we have never been able to do is to solve our insufficient capacity to sacrifice for others, to love others more, to forget more about ourselves, our egos. Our tools are more sophisticated now, but we use them in basically the same way. As I heard once from a friend: “the problem is in the hearts and minds of people”. Maybe it is time we try harder to learn about the link between these two spheres, “the hardware and the software”, the real spiritual intent of our actions, and its implications.

Some disciplines of science (for example neuroscience and quantum physics) have been telling us in the last decades that reality might just not be as we thought it was. Not even time and space appear as certainties any more. Science ends up using words that used to belong to the fields of philosophy or religion, at a time when we could be going through a new “Copernican revolution”, a change of paradigm, the center of which is how the human mind is affecting, and creating, reality, and how the outside is not different from the inside, but part of a whole, a unity. What implications does this have on social entrepreneurship? I think it should get us ecstatic: we really have the power to do whatever we can imagine. It is just a question of getting enough people to firmly believe in something for that something to become real. See if not how “real” was the impressive economic growth the world experienced for many years, and how “real” is now the crisis. And in between, what has “really” changed? “Real” was the immense power of now fallen dictators in the Middle East (as Hobbes said, “Ilusion of power is power”). What is the fortune of an unhappy millionaire “really” worth for him or her? In the end, we live in a world of perceptions. But are they our innate, deepest perceptions, or are we nothing but still blindfolded beings, disconnected from our own internal wisdom?

I used the word “love” in the title because I think it conveys the idea of forgetting about oneself. In fact, when one is in love, does one care about profit or personal gain? Scale? Measuring anything? I think not. On the contrary, one feels inspired to give, to give oneself and even all of one’s possessions. To act intuitively, free of the defined. It is known that in the history of humankind many people have done quite “crazy” things motivated by love. Crazy according to who’s standards? So what if we could bring some of that “crazy” motivation into social enterprise, and in fact into all of our human acts.

The first thing I can think of is in the uselessness of so much expenditure in the military, worldwide, but from the most evident we can then move on to the least and most difficult: what is the intimate motivation of my own acts? Am I doing the best I can, as a being that in the very end “will leave no more trace than a stone, thrown into a river, leaves on the surface of the water”? What is my purpose in life? What am I here to do? We tend to give our individual selves too much importance, when individuality might, after all, end up being nothing but an erroneous – or only a very partially valid – point of view.

I am under the impression that social entrepreneurs have the opportunity to bequeath to society, besides new ideas and business models, the legacy of a motivation for action based on the love for others; a motivation rooted in a profound existential meaning and purpose that can permeate to the leaders of the rest of the spheres of society – and from there to all.

3 thoughts on “How does love fit into the picture?
How does love fit into the picture? avatar

  1. Thank you for a very thoughtful and informative posting, Patricio. In my work with executives I have found that, in the business world, love is a four-letter word. When I talk about love in the workplace or seminars, the room goes silent. Until recently it was the same when I raised the notion of spiritual intelligence or moral intelligence. But since a few years, executives want to discuss this and are willing to look at their corporate cultures and their own practices to see whether they are leading with spirit and are engaging their employees in a holistic way. It is a small beginning but it is hopeful. I agree that NGOs are a great place to try and recognize the role of love, both broadly for one’s fellow humans and specifically then within the group that devotes itself to a cause. Please keep us up to date on your thinking and experiences in this regard.

  2. While you were meeting in Argentina, we have been practicing this leadership skill you are talking about in Berlin: http://aohberlin2011.posterous.com/leaders-dont-create-followers-they-create-mor

    And this book is also a great read on that topic “Power and Love – A Theory and Practice of Social Change” by Adam Kahane. Adam facilitated e.g. the Mont Fleur Scenario Project towards democracy in South Africa.

    Furthermore, I just found this great crowdfunding campaign, yesterday: producing a film around the quesiton “How are the economic and ecological crises we are facing today a great love story?” http://www.indiegogo.com/Occupy-Love

  3. Nandani, thank you for sharing about this small and hopeful beginning you perceive. I guess all meaningful things start small, so if we keep trying to focus we might just end up seeing something there! And Frauke, great info, it is fascinating to see these people embarked in this inspiring quest for learning more about ourselves.
    By the way, I just received these quotes by e-mail, speaking of science meeting spirituality…
    No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it. – Albert Einstein
    We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make our world. – The Buddha
    Which also reminded me about a human facet that might be in the root of the problem: how easy we get used to, and bored of, things. We get annoyed if we cannot make a phone call, or send an e-mail, from a most remote place, which was anyway impossible just 15 years ago. And if we get delayed 2 hours in a flight that would have meant a months’ journey 100 years ago. We get too easily used to what once was impossible and unimaginable, and it seems like our ability to be impressed becomes somewhat saturated. Maybe its the same way by which we loose the ability to be amazed by our surrounding reality, which is in itself miraculous. Just like “buddhas that don’t realize they are buddhas”. You can see that in how a baby looks at everything, until, of course, they grow up and start seeing things like grown ups do….hope we can find once again that taste for being awed by the simplest things. In this way, the greatest of problems might just turn out to be very simple.

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