A prodigal return
Wright, N. (2020), 'A Prodigal Return', Coaching & Life, 2 June.
‘If we're here to help others, what are the others here for?’ (Robert Anton Wilson)
What a great satirical question! It calls into question human identity and purpose and does so with tongue firmly-in-cheek. It made me smile. I ran it past my professional mentor and his response was simple: ‘There are no others.’ I like that…but what on earth does it mean? I can’t get rid of this deep, nagging feeling that we’ve seriously lost our way somewhere. The climate emergency, the migrant crisis, the plastic-in-the-oceans calamity, the Covid19 pandemic: all are screaming out to us to wake up, open our eyes, see.
The troubling thing is, this isn’t just about something that someone else needs to do. It’s about you, me, us. ‘Make X great again’ is an attractive and rousing slogan, but it’s a zero sum game in which there are real winners and real losers…and the stakes are becoming breathtakingly high. Against this backdrop, I was encouraged to read a new coaching and mentoring book this week in which the writer rejects ‘return on investment’ as a foundational principle in favour of ‘return on humanity’ (Norman, 2020).
And this word keeps coming back to me: Return. In deep thought, I half-glance down at my keyboard and tap the ‘return’ key. The cursor leaps back to where it started in the left-hand margin (or the right-hand margin if you use a different script) – except that it doesn’t. It’s one line, one step further ahead on the page than it was before. Now I’m thinking – a return that means a revisiting, yet also a step forward. Who or where do we need to go back to in order to advance from here? What will best yield a ‘return on humanity?’
This came to mind: in 18C Europe, the 'enlightenment' felt like a bright liberation from the dogmatic, feudal, dark ages. Yet, ‘the (apparent) death of God didn’t strike (even) Nietzsche as an entirely good thing’ (Hendricks, 2016). In losing sight of God, we somehow lost sight of each other too. I’m convinced it’s time for a new enlightenment: a radical return; not to deathly religion but to the Spirit of Jesus and a step forward with renewed humanity - together. Bottom line: There are no others. ‘I am them’ (Jasmin, 2016).
‘We shall not cease from exploration
and the end of all our exploring
will be to arrive where we started
and know the place for the first time.’
T.S. Eliot (1943)
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Nick Wright is a psychological coach and organisation development (OD) consultant who is based in the UK and works internationally (www.nick-wright.com). References: Norman, C. (2020), ‘Mentor Coaching’, London, Open University Press; Hendricks, S. (2016), https://bigthink.com/scotty-hendricks/what-nietzsche-really-meant-by-god-is-dead; Jasmin (2016): A Radical Heart.
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'Love this post Nick. How can we connect again when people are now so afraid of each other? We were so disconnected before, but now what with social distancing, more than ever! I've always known I don't need things, I need people and people need each other. It's a confusing and dark time and trust is at the centre of this. Trust has been lost, the question is how do we find it again? Food for thought!' (Sharon King)
'Excellent piece, Nick. For me it's the return to love. I haven't lost it, it was always there, but my focus for a long time was on different things. Exactly "things". Now I'm moving away from "things" and find love again.' (Judit McAlley)
'Great work, Nick! People are consumed with being idle in place or jumping forward past the difficulties to the next happy idle position. It is often forgotten that taking a few steps back can mean a slingshot forward. While going backward may be a revisit to or a reminder of hardships, it is those hardships that place full value on the triumphs. Without the harsh, we can't appreciate the accomplishments. We are here to serve others. Who are others? We all are.' (Tara Parker)