One way to Beauty? NO! to the Ugly

‘Re-examine all you have been told. Dismiss what insults your Soul.’ – Walt Whitman

The quote on a little square carton dangled at the end of my tea bag, one cloudy morning in Amsterdam. Three years after finishing that cup of tea, I still carry the piece of paper in my wallet, as the most valuable amongst valuables. The quote touched me. Not because its meaning was so radically new to me, – I once read that books that inspire us are not the ones that teach us something new, but those that give words to what we feel but cannot phrase. I loved the message because it resonated so strongly with my inner truth.

I long believed that rejecting things I saw around me was a sign of weakness. That I suffered from a need to identify myself by what I did not agree with. I judged the world by its many troubles and imperfections, focusing on what was not right. I heard myself being sharp, critical and a nay-sayer. Nay to the boredom of high school – which made me leave for Latin America at the age of 16; Nay to the Economics degree I had earned, – what use are these simplistic mathematical models for the real world?; Nay to my promising job in a respected financial institution. Nay, nay, nay.

In spite of all the no-ness, I never regarded myself as a negative person, nor was I perceived as such by others. I have always been full of dreams, hopes and ideas for the future; my own and the planet’s. I believe that humanity can do infinitely better than we do today! That in our hearts we all wish to take care of ourselves, society, and the ecosystems that surround us; that we just haven’t found the way yet. But every day I am confronted with a world that insults my Soul…

I used to read the papers on my way to work. By the time I arrived, I felt like crying. When I shared my thoughts with colleagues, they would shrug their shoulders and tell me ‘it’s just the way it is,’ which made my heart sink even deeper in disconnected hopelessness.

In weekends, if I happen to visit the city centre, I hear my Soul groan. I am absorbed in a crowd that rushes the streets in search for self-esteem in a new outfit. It makes my body tense, my mind anxious to know that shopping has become the nation’s number one pass-time. Staring at the suffocatingly overwhelming  abundance of clothes in all shapes and sizes, knowing that they are designed for obsolescence, to be liked just long enough to make the purchase and just short enough to have it replaced by the next season, I cannot help but ask myself in every single store: How much of their stock will actually be sold? And if it’s not, what landfill will it end up on? And how much of what is sold will be binned after being worn once, twice or maybe a season? The same questions arise when I walk past the phone shop, or the warehouse full of nick-nacks, presents and home decorations. Where does it all go?

The mountains of stuff make my head spin and the thoughts of the ecological cost of it all makes me feel unwell. What a waste of nature, what a waste of human skill. What a waste of sacred materials, human creativity, and precious time on earth! I cannot not reject a lot of what I see. I find it ugly. It feels cold and sometimes scary, uncared for and disposable. It is violence to the Soul. Mine, Humanity’s, Nature’s.

Beautiful Economy is not just seeing the bright side, imagining what can be and creating a desired future. It is also facing the ugly. Realising how our culture of More, Further, Faster, Bigger brings about the destruction of Life. And feeling what this does to our Soul. Beautiful Economy is about saying NO to the ugly, consistently and confidently. To step out, refuse, reject; walk out and walk on. It is sensing what our bodies tell us, knowing when our hearts expand or contract. Being aware of our own facial expressions, muscular tensions and the rushing of our blood. It is noticing what sparks our anger, frustration, disappointment. And being honest about the fact that the world sometimes hurts, saddens, makes you feel hopelessly small, insignificant and alone.

Beautiful Economy is to face it all. See the ugly, feel it, come to grips with it, and choose the beautiful. Choose that what inspires you, that what warms your heart and brings a smile on your face. Choose what is healthy, for yourself and the planet. Choose what you rationally and intuitively know is right. Choose what feeds your Soul! Again and again and again…


6 thoughts on “One way to Beauty? NO! to the Ugly

  1. Hallo mooi mens, thanks for giving words to the feelings I cannot phrase… thanks for reminding met of what really matters to me 🙂

  2. Hi Sarah, you are about the most positive person I know! And definitely one of the most inspiring! Ok if i copy the quote to my blog and link to this site? I was just thinking that I still needed one for today and had none, but then, as always, it popped up just when I needed it. Got to trust that flow. Kim

  3. It was Walt Whitman who was one of those that inspired Jan Christian Smuts to discard the Calvinistic notion that the world was ugly and to be endured and embrace life as a gift and a privilege. I think the devaluing of the sensual joy of being might have contributed to finding meaning in mindless pursuit of material possession you so eloquently describe. Now crisis offers a new opportunity. Here are a few quick and rough thoughts off the top of my head on the potential new emergent economy:

    With a growing section of the global population (especially now in the developed world with the on-going financial crisis) the old insensitive and exploitative capitalist economic systems is becoming increasingly discredited – expect increasing pressure on governments and institutions enabled by the emergent power of social media.
    Whilst there is a romantic desire on the part of communalists to go back to those failed socialist economic experiments the days of central planning are over – the inefficiencies of bureaucracies are well demonstrated especially the inability to adapt quickly to accelerating change and increasingly complexity,.
    An issue of deep concern in developed economies the the erosion of the middle class equally divided into the poorer and the wealthy. The middle class are the voters, taxpayers and the back bone of stable societies – this is leading to growing concern and investigation into how to re-empower the ordinary guy. Watch the emergence of social enterprise.
    In developed economies the social and environmental consequences of consumption-fueled growth is resulting in a belated acceptance that growth might have to be redefined from increasing production and consumption of material goods to growth manifested in services generating an improvement in meaningful quality of life.
    The ethics of the banking and financial services industry as an investment arena with its various speculative instruments that generated the financial crisis is under severe scrutiny. Financial services, it is increasingly considered, should again become a utility rather than a speculative investment arena – expect at least drastically tightened governance.
    The crazy idea of money (as digits in a computer) representing value in itself is becoming replaced with a reinvestigation of money becoming backed by real tangible value – labour, time, innovation, resources etc. Watch the emergence of alternative trading currencies.
    Business for the sake of naked profit is becoming replaced with the notion of business as a life-enhancing exchange of energy in respect of those goods and services that lead to deeper human and sustainable flourishing.
    In the face of the burgeoning global population energy security, food security and water security will increasingly dominate economic (and social and political) thinking – as well as issues of sustainability and environmental degradation. Expect punitive taxation to become increasingly mooted as disincentive to negative impact on these precious resources.
    The increasing quantification of value into that which can be measured in monetary terms is seen has having devalued the God-given resources of nature and also the deeper dimensions of humanity. Humans have increasingly become identified in those two systems dominated by private enterprise (people seen as work units with their value measured by their production, and as consumers) and government (people seen as voters with legitimate demands that have to be satisfied by governments (and hence the problem of sovereign debt) and taxpayers. A re-examination of the human person qualitatively is taking place – with economic implications.
    A response to the above challenges is the emergence of the phenomenon of social enterprise in which communities in civil society work together collaboratively for the good of the collective in cooperative systems, trusts etc aimed at re-engaging the productivity and creativity of the smaller guys enabled and supported in cooperative systems and often creating their own media of exchange – alternative currencies. This is apparently a burgeoning phenomenon in Italy, Greece and Spain etc.
    Whist different economic models can be expected to emerge in developed, emerging and underdeveloped economies, an integrative but plural global economy is inevitable – enabled by super connectivity etc. So for example the American and European economic woes are already impacting significantly on Chinese growth prospects.
    In developed countries watch green technology, refurbishment of ageing infrastructure to deal with issues of sustainability and climate change, and retrofitting etc.
    An increasingly informed, mobilized and connected (social media) global civil society is going to challenge existing models of governance, economics, business and become an additional force to labour (still locked into the government/private enterprise/labour triad) under the theme of reclaiming the ‘commons’. The commons is that, though freely given by nature and embracing deeper human value, which has been disproportionately co-opted into government and business and now is only available at a fee which fee has in turn to be earned again in that closed monetary system. This is increasingly perceived as a refined form of slavery. Social enterprise is seen as being the economic answer and civil society mobilization seen as been the response to the bureaucratized and manipulative governmental systems.
    The new emergent model will thus see attempts to establish a proper balance between private, state and social enterprise – thus holding possibilities and prospects for greater collaborative opportunities between those three arenas – itself calling on a revision of mechanisms to control cartels, monopolies, anti-competitive practice etc. Successful corporations will redefine the stakeholder policies to provide more equitable balance between shareholders, customers, employees, local communities, society in general, and mother nature ultimately.
    All of this will lead to a critical requirement of a move in organizational leadership based in reductionist science with its focus on materialism to holistic science based on the principle of nature’s inherent drive to wholeness.

Leave a Reply to Denise Curi Curi Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s