What do we want?
As we move grudgingly into the new year, knowing that the holidays are behind us, spring is still a distant promise and our new years resolutions crumbling already; I wonder what it is was within those promises to ourselves that we were striving for.
I guess for most of us they are an acknowledgement that all is not as we would have it and that we strive to change. We aspire to something better for the new year. We do not have all we want, or we are not all we wish be. But are we clear what it is that we are aspiring to? Exactly what is it we want?
I fear that for many, the media informs us on what it is to be successful. The image portrayed is usually a combination of wealth, power, beauty and fame. It is by comparison with peers that we gauge our value, which therefore drives relentless inflation of these attributes. “I must have a better job, more power, be more attractive or be better known than my friends and colleagues.” “I must be higher up the social hierarchy for then I will be happy.”
Lets put it into a context. I work for a small firm in which there is a straight forward management structure similar to many. We are a day care service that looks a bit like a small manufacturing business. Our service users are the workforce, we have staff and volunteers that oversee their work and department heads that look after them. We have a manager in the office that directs all the departments and the clerical staff in the office. You can look at all this as a pyramid of power and I believe there is a temptation for managers to view their importance this way and for those lower down to strive for the headier heights (even the manager can aspire to become the chair of the board).
However their is another way of looking at it all. I like to turn it all upon its head and make it more organic too (we are after all dealing with living souls not blocks of stone). Please indulge me if as I return to trees for this analogy (I’m fond of trees!). In this view the board are the roots of the organisation, grounding it and sustaining it; the trunk is the management, still massively important, the central structure supporting the rest if the tree; the branches are the departments and their heads, linking the trunk with the leaves and the leaves are the workers or service users, they are the glory of the tree and in our day care centre they are the point – they’re our raison d’être.
All parts of a tree are necessary for it to live and if you wish to damage a tree, you would probably attacking the trunk. We have only one manager and if he collapses, we are lost. However a tree without leaves is a dead stick. Even a tree where the leaves are stressed and diseased is in real trouble. When a client leaves, it is a sad lose to us but others join and we continue. If we are not supporting our clients well, we will lose them wholesale regardless of how efficient the rest of the structure appears.
So whats my point? Well firstly its that if you want to assess the health of an organisation you look at the leaves. More importantly it is that like our tree, organisations, society even, needs many different individual parts that work in harmony if they are to function well. The parts are clearly not the same but since we are mutually dependant, all parts must feel fully valued.
I would contest that in our society that is not the case! We value the roots and the trunk and even the branches but the twigs and the leaves are under valued simply because of their numbers. ‘If we losing a lot workers, no matter, we can replace them. As long as we have the best CEO.’ But do you have the best CEO if the organisation is so sick it cannot sustain it’s workforce.
In a structure that does not value everyone, we all aspire to claw our way up high enough so that we aren’t struggling to make ends meet. We want to be powerful, rich or famous because we think that life is better there. We want an escape from trying to keep up with the credit card bill at the end of the month.
Unfortunately the numbers don’t stack up. A few may make it to financial ease but there are just to many of us for everyone to be rich. Also those that do make it often find that it is the answer to only one problem – financial security. It may well bring more stress and angst, less family time less contentment.
I contest that what we need is a society that values the leaves and twigs more and not just financially. If we are to prevent our society from becoming fractured between the rich and those to struggle to keep out of debt, (to say nothing of the completely disenfranchised unemployed); we need to invest in the many and not allow the few to syphon off enough personal wealth to insulate them from our struggling social services.
Lets not be naive, we cannot enhance the health, education and social care services, just by heavily taxing the super rich. If all we aspire to is a smarter car, a bigger flatscreen TV and stream of foreign holidays our country will not have enough money to build a homogenous society. We all have to choose, to some extent between personal and community wealth. Lets face it, poverty is relative. Even the poorest of us is far wealthier than 90% of the world population.
I guess what I am saying is that we need to choose carefully as individuals and as a society what we aspire to if we want to lead truly fulfilling lives. I think we do have to be aspirational to become fully ourselves, as the Bishop of London said in his sermon a the marriage of Kate and William <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1vh-zWt9h8>. But we are not all princes and princesses, as the media tells us we are. Most of us are ‘ordinary’ – leaves and twigs in the grand scheme of things but we are still extraordinary, all wonderfully individual, important to those near and dear and valued immensely by our maker.
He has the true vision for what we can be and it is in Him that we can be most truly ourselves. For the tree is not a tree but a vine and He would have us be His branches!