Revisiting Blessed Unrest


In this issue:
1. Reader Comments
2. Newsbits
3. September Editorial: “Revisiting Blessed Unrest”
4. Preview: Next Month’s Editorial
5. Quote of the Month – Bertrand Russell
6. Hot Link of the Month
7. Want to Blog?
8. “Click and Play” of the Month


Thanks to the many subscribers for their feedback to last month’s editorial, some kind words and some taking me to task, prompting me to post a new subject on my blog; please join us at Global Leadership Center; you can just read or read and post comments.

After getting several complaints about the failure of the built-in FORWARD feature at the foot of each newsletter, I learned from Topica they had disabled it due to pressure from ISPs. In the future, please rely on your browser to forward issues of the newsletter.

Join Me for the 2007 International Spirit at Work Awards

Care to join me for three days of conference/retreat during which the honorees for the annual Int’l Spirit at Work Awards will be presented? I have the privilege of co-hosting the awards ceremony again this year and participating in the weekend activities, October 19-21. If any of you subscribers can make it, please join me.

IONS Offer for My Subscribers

I was the featured guest for a recent Shift in Action teleseminar at the Institute of Noetic Sciences and they have offered a special trial membership for any of my newsletter subscribers. It looks pretty attractive with several bonuses and only a one-dollar commitment. Click here and check it out.
Internet Fable

Here’s an Internet fable worth a read if you are interested in cultural differences between Japan and U.S. auto makers.

Tidbits From the 4th Annual CSR Summit Brochure

94% of corporate executives say Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategies will deliver real business results (Ernst & Young survey); one-third of international executives say CSR initiatives will increase sales (Hill & Knowlton); and 71% of CEOs say they’d sacrifice short-term profitability for long-term shareholder value when implementing CSR programs (PricewaterhouseCoopers). Well, that’s what they say!


“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique…. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.” – Martha Graham talking with Agnes de Mille

While Martha Graham could have first coined the term “blessed unrest” several years ago, a new book has revived my interest in this highly personal experience which some of us know so well and others find perplexing. It seems to be one of those human experiences where “you have to be there.”

Martha Graham

Like Graham who felt she had no choice but to dance and create, yet wouldn’t have traded places with anyone, many people are doing work they would not have chosen rationally; their hearts feel the call and won’t allow them to turn their backs on their gift. Many of these people are a new breed of “social entrepreneur” who feels called to rectify some social wrong or further some worthy cause. Their work often involves struggle, frustration, a “never good enough” sense of discontent that is the source of their unrest. But there is also a sense of soulful calling, covenant or passionate engagement that makes one feel so blessed and privileged to be doing what one is doing.

Some may appear to have sacrificed relationships, living luxuriously, having children or other experiences enjoyed by many of their peers. To friends, family and loved ones of those with this gift/curse, it may look like martyrdom. These people see their loved ones stumble and fail, starved for perfection in what they do, and wonder why they don’t do something else. “Why do you put yourself through this?” they ask with great compassion and concern, oblivious as to why their friends cannot turn away from their magnificent obsession, this emotional anchor that seemingly any sane person would release. “You could be doing so many other things that would provide you with ….” and they mention things like a better living – more fame, fun or free time.

They do not understand this blessed unrest that drives people to work on social causes that may seem hopeless to others, pushing beyond socially-acceptable ideals, seeking a level of perfection most people can’t appreciate. It escapes them!

Recently, Paul Hawken published, Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming. The “largest movement” he’s pointing to is the enormous explosion of organizations around the world dedicated to solving various aspects of our social maladies, principally groups committed to matters such as social justice and environmental sustainability. He likens this movement to humanity’s immune system, a rallying of cause-motivated people and organizations intent on protecting our global society from threats that have invaded our reality. He points to the exponential growth in numbers of these “antibodies” being formed all over the world. Here’s a video of Hawken addressing this.

For the most part, the people who started organizations or have become dedicated to social causes are “fighting the good fight” without getting much financial benefit or other perks normally enjoyed by people working in corporations and conventional institutions. These “blessed unrest-ers” usually work long hours and often live from donation to donation, grant to grant, frequently deferring their compensation during dry spells.

Why do they do this? What drives these people to live and work in ways most of us would find intolerable, ways most of their friends would advise them to change.

Ask them and they say things like “I have no choice.” Occasionally, one will get on a self-pity roll about how unappreciated or under-funded they are, or how few people seem to care about things as much as they do. Despair is an occupational hazard for these people. But after their tirade, they usually get back into the swing and log another 12-hour day.

“How do they persist?” their friends wonder. “How do they remain so committed, so intensely engaged?” They don’t wallow in their discouragements, their despair. They feel these feelings when they surface, allow them to pass, and get back to work.

How do I know this? Because I am one of them.

I was in the real estate investment business and lived “the good life.” I had the toys – the boats, the Mercedes and the custom made suits. But now I have my work – my personal calling – and I can’t imagine doing anything else. I have listened to friends who are perplexed with me. I’ve watched their eyes as they seem to convey a sympathy reminiscent of that evoked by Don Quixote, Cervantes’ fantasized knight errant.

Unlike Quixote, I’m not feeling chivalrous. Neither do I feel delusional. Rather I feel blessed in my unrest, this “queer, divine dissatisfaction.”

4. NEXT MONTH’S EDITORIAL: “Fatal Reasonableness”

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.” – Bertrand Russell
The Center for Leadership Studies: founded in the Fall of 2004, offers an accredited Masters of Arts in Organizational Leadership (MAOL) degree, in collaboration with the Graduate Institute of Connecticut; John serves on their leadership faculty.
My blog – “Exploring the Better Future” – is located at the Global Dialogues Center; take a look and post your comments. I’d love to hear from some of you subscribers!
8. “Click & Play” of the Month (see Audio and Video, including Humorous, Provocative and Inspiring Videos
“Choicepoint: the Future Is Now:” Cheryl Esposito interviews John on Voice America

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John Renesch

John is a seasoned businessman-turned-futurist who has published 14 books and hundreds of articles on social and organizational transformation.

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