More on Spiritual Suicide: Response for the Critics

November 13, 1998


Ordinarily, my articles cover different topics but the last issue of Aha! provoked so much response – ranging from passionate criticism and disagreement to encouraging praise and appreciation – that I wanted to expand on what I wrote before. I’ve never had an article so widely-forwarded and re-published as Aha! #3. Of course, neither have I published much on the Internet where an idea can be shared with thousands of people overnight without the author’s knowledge. This was my first experience of the wildfire effect that is possible when something is spread through cyberspace, and I found it both exciting and scary at the same time.

I am choosing to expand a bit more on the topic of Spiritual Suicide since there were many readers of the first article who were unfamiliar with my work over the past decade and some elaboration seems appropriate on my part.

I thank the large majority of the readers of Aha! #3 who sent me words of appreciation for the article, who asked for permission to pass it on to others, publish it in their publications, and contributed to its further distribution. I received responses from all over the world, and in a matter of days!

Responding to the Criticism

Due to the tremendous outpouring of response to Aha! #3: Spiritual Suicide: Working in the Soul-Less Enterprise, both praising and criticizing it, I am using one more issue of Aha! to expand upon my intention and meaning. This is primarily for those people who collectively accused me of being angry, thoughtless and idealistic in my writing. No one person labeled me all of these but together the criticisms did overlap.

Since the late 1980s my work in the arena of consciousness, spirituality and business has provided me with a rare perspective on people who work, their attitudes about business and the human spirit, and the organizations in which they try to function. I’ve worked with hundreds of authors in compiling a dozen business anthologies on several subjects about transforming organizations. I have also interviewed nearly 100 executives for The New Leaders newsletter (1990-1997). These people ranged from CEOs of large multinational companies to middle managers to owners of small entrepreneurial firms.

Throughout all these experiences I have heard a low whining, a chronic complaining, a collective blaming of other faceless people who seemingly perpetuate commerce without a soul. I’m not accusing everyone of this but this victim mentality certainly has included large numbers of people in the workplace. Underneath the grumblings I could see an erosion of one of the major assets of the American individual – personal responsibility for one’s life. After all, there is no “them” to blame since we are all involved. And, if we are all interconnected as spiritual people tend to believe, then blaming anyone is tantamount to blaming ourselves anyway.

For those who claim there is no such thing as “soul-less-ness,” I really do know that everybody has a soul and that every organization has a soul somewhere. I know that there isn’t any such thing as “soul-less-ness” only something blocking the soulfulness from coming through and being seen. Anyone who has any familiarity with my work knows this as well. But some of my critics who saw the article third-hand did not know me and took the title literally. This was an error I can own. I underestimated the vast readership and widespread distribution via the Internet and wrote Aha! #3 in a sort of shorthand for people who were already somewhat familiar with my work.

In writing the Spiritual Suicide article, I intended to jolt people and used language that was provocative by design. I see too many people staying in jobs while they complain and complain about how their organizations “have no soul.” I’m tired of the whining! So I will own my anger about people pretending that they don’t have a choice, that they are victims, when all they need to do is walk away from these situations.

Alternatively, they can do something about the conditions they are enduring. I contend that as soon as any one person begins to shine some light on a darkened organization soul, others will join in and voila – there’s soul where you couldn’t see soul before!

For those who reacted as if I lived in an ivory tower and didn’t appreciate the poor people who felt lucky to have any job at all, I am not a heartless nor a thoughtless person. But I do believe people control their own destiny, create their own reality, and are here to learn whatever lessons they need to learn. I wrote the article as I am writing everything these days – to arouse that spark within people to take responsibility for changing their workplaces and their work lives so their environments, relationships and endeavors nurture their spirit while providing a needed and sustainable product or service for the rest of us.

I agree with the visionary Willis Harman who foresaw that the great transformation will not come about from our so-called leaders but from the grassroots, the ordinary people like you and me. So lets not waste time waiting for some form of Godot to arrive and save our spiritual asses. Lets save our own!

For those who think this is idealist preaching from a pulpit and argue for the practicalities of working for a living, I ask you to suspend your cynicism and do some truth-telling to yourself. Do you honestly believe that you cannot nurture your soul through your work? Do you harbor a belief that all work must compromise your soul – that it is inevitable and there’s nothing you can do about it? If you do, then I offer that you might consider owning your own resignation and possibly changing your belief about this. At least stop the whining and quit bothering the rest of us who know that work, service, and passionate endeavor can be paths to spiritually-fulfilling lives, even paths to greater enlightenment.

John E. Renesch is a San Francisco writer, futurist, and business philosopher. Since 1990, he has edited a series of forward-thinking business anthologies that have included the writings of over 300 visionaries from industry, business academia, and the professional communities. He is also a frequent keynote speaker internationally, having addressed audiences in Tokyo, Seoul, London, Brussels, Budapest as well as many cities throughout the U.S. He’s been called a cross between a pompous pundit and a zealous evangelist when it comes to radical change in business practices. To call 415-437-6974. More information about him and his work can be found on the Web at John Renesch.



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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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