It’s rare that the spring holidays of three of the world’s great religions fall in the same month. While the themes and messages of these rituals are inter-related, only once every 33 years do their dates coincide. May this moment of unity and celebration of spring, liberation and community calm our global nerves and help focus our hearts for the year to come. We need it. I made it through my little Covid scare, managing by some lucky miracle not to catch the dreaded bug. Luckily, because this week proved to be full of delightful dates.
Thanks to my ALI colleague Elliot Davis, who has a long career in museum leadership, we got a guided tour of Harvard Art Museum’s Krzysztof Wodiczko installation. This renowned artist, working globally at the edges of democracy’s endangered shores, takes the 1795 Gilbert Stuart painting of George Washington – and multiplies him. On three walls of a small, dark room, his portrait is in conversation with himself, or with different internal voices of the America he founded. The portraits are animated and adapt to take on the facial characteristics of the people they represent. The voices, recorded from live interviews with the Harvard community during the Covid pandemic, have a contemporary dialogue about what ails the country. It’s an eerie and wonderful 20 minutes of very familiar disagreements, elevated to art in a saddening dance of division and mutual incomprehension.
This was followed by an introduction by another colleague, Eduardo Chadwick, to Chile’s finest wine, first rated a perfect 100 in 2015. Created in 1995, it’s called Seña and is a heavenly mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenère, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. Listening to Eduardo’s 20-year push to shift the perception of his country and his family’s wine from bargain basement supermarket filler to top of the ranks fine wines was a lesson in determination and resilience. Chadwick wrote a book about the saga of The Berlin Tasting, where a blind test finally opened people’s palates (and minds) to the idea that a Chilean wine could compare with the world’s best. And we got an evening to drink a little too much of it. A bad tendency of mine when the wine is fine and the company congenial.
We were also introduced to four coaches who are available to support our ALI cohort in the coming months. They explained their roles, strengths and preferences in a session which gave a glimpse of the arc of where ALI folk find themselves 3 months into a shape-shifting year. Some were experienced working with people who are lost and wondering what in the world they will do with the rest of their lives. Others sit at the opposite end of the spectrum, best for people who have a well-defined project and want a skilled pair of hands to help think through launch and scale. I’m really looking forward to this. My own coach retired a few years ago, and as a coach myself, it’s good to stay tuned (and supervised). I’ll share with you my pick of this very impressive pack (if I’m allowed to). Would love some top flight partnership/ challenge/ checking in on my ideas, plans and priorities. It always helps to have a sparring partner in times of creativity, growth and re-creation.
I tend to get over-excited by an abundance of options and opportunities. While at the same time, I feel pressured by how quickly time is fleeting by. But this week nudged me forward on several fronts which I’ll talk more about as they emerge. I’ve been working and meeting with several people who I’m delighted to be developing ideas and pilots with. Everywhere on this astonishing campus are people with not just great minds, but also the gusto, energy and experience to start things, explore partnerships, share what and who they know, and generally offer a lot of encouragement. It’s priceless, energising and self-affirming.
Mostly what I’m discovering (yet again – I seem to need regular reminders), is that my musings resonate. I just need to move on with them. Get started, try things, iterate, partner, explore, use design thinking, play with a team or several. Don’t wait to be perfect. Share ideas and be ready to change them. Collaborate. Find good people and reach out to them. You get great feedback from strangers and people unattached to your projects. In fact, strangers are often the best change agents. Ask for help. Try. Have fun. Adjust. Try again.
So this Easter/ Passover/ Ramadan, I’m wishing you love, joy and an appetite for new beginnings large or small. A season of re-creation and rebirth. With all the pain, betrayals and passages through deserts - both personal and global - that accompany them. “Much of the coping with discontinuity,” wrote Mary Catherine Bateson “has to do with discovering threads of continuity.” Religions have been good at narrating those threads and offering rituals to share and contemplate them. Whatever your philosophy, I hope this weekend offers you a thread of your own. And a community to tie it into.
Thread by thread, may we find a direction in which to tread - and/ or help each other in our wanderings.
Thank you again for joining me in mine.