In an odd moment of cultural and artistic dissonance, two things found their way into my senses sequentially the other day, followed by a related thought. First, in my Facebook feed, a friend had posted the 1966 garage-band, proto-punk classic, “Talk Talk“:
Here’s the situation
And how it really stands
I’m out of circulation
I’ve all but washed my hands
The phrase that struck me was, out of circulation, emphasizing, as it does, the song’s abiding senses of isolation and frustration. I wondered if the lyrics were written with deliberate irony since there seems to be some pretty clear cause and effect there: If you’ve removed yourself from social interaction — and abdicated your responsibility for that removal — frustration and loneliness are pretty much all that’s left.
The second thing that crossed my neural pathway was an article in Artsy: “Visiting museums and galleries is a popular way to de-stress, according to a new study“. It was a breath of fresh hope after the bleak paranoia of “Talk Talk”:
The British nonprofit Art Fund found … 63% of U.K. adults “used a visit to a museum or gallery to ‘de-stress” … Those who do visit museums and galleries regularly … “report a greater sense of satisfaction with their lives … as well as a greater sense of their lives and what they do being worthwhile.”
My inner pragmatist recognized, of course, that it might not be practical or possible for some people to visit museums regularly. But perhaps it’s not the museum that engenders greater senses of satisfaction. Perhaps it’s the artwork. And maybe paintings in a museum might not be the only source of art that engenders relief from stress and greater senses of self, satisfaction, and sufficiency. It’s just as possible as anything else that songs or stories might make us feel similarly, peacefully fulfilled. Then I had my thought.
What If …?
As I contemplated the juxtaposition between the sentiments of “Talk Talk” and those in the Artsy article, I recalled a quote I once read from Dr. Karl Menninger:
I tell myself to listen with affection to anyone who talks to me. This person is showing me his soul. It may be a little dry and meager and full of grinding talk just now, but soon he will begin to think. He will show his true self; he will be wonderfully alive.
That made me think that the sense of satisfaction engendered by art could be enhanced by social interaction, by the exchange of thoughts, impressions, and sentiments in conversation. And it made me wonder if, rather than encouraging their people to visit museums, employers could invite and encourage their people to participate in sharing sessions.
What if, once a week, people were invited to sessions with their co-workers to share paintings, songs, stories, or other works of art? What if such sessions created opportunities to get to know each other in different ways, on different levels? What if they were able to discover — on their own, in their own ways — that the magic of business is people?
There It Is
Let’s not forget there are multiple definitions of commerce:
- an interchange of goods or commodities … trade; business.
- social relations, especially the exchange of views, attitudes, etc.
- intellectual or spiritual interchange; communion.
If we treat #2 and #3 as being at least as important and meaningful as #1, we’ll be putting some seriously substantive commerce into our businesses. If we enable our people to show their true selves, to be wonderfully alive through the discussion of arts of all sorts, we’ll be doing our selves, our people, and our businesses a true service.
And we’ll be walking the talk talk.