Spiritual Output and Impact
When you live long enough, no doubt you do things you never thought you would be doing. I guess I have lived long enough! I am ok with that. However, most of the stuff I am doing, that I never thought I would be doing, was not invented when I was a kid. If I think about the friends I have who are in their eighties or nineties, the changes in the world in their lifetime is stupefying. Even the changes in my lifetime astound me.
Obviously, much of it is technology. The fact that I sit with my laptop typing this inspirational piece which then will be uploaded to cyberspace to be read as an email or blog makes me laugh. I use words in that previous sentence that would have made no sense to a Hoosier farm boy when I was growing up. A car is a car, but my car today is not even close to the first car I drove. And so the countless changes could be added to the list.
I am not an early adapter. I certainly was not at the head of the line to get to use the computer when they arrived on the scene. I managed to write my first book without a computer. Wite-Out was my favorite tool! But I do adapt. As my friend used to say, “I am just slow; I’m not stupid!” So I have a laptop. I operate in cyberspace (although I have no concept what that means). And I blog (although that still seems like a very odd verb).
But I am not for change for the sake of change. I value tradition. I value the classics. Novelty is not truth, although truth certainly can come in novel forms. And tradition is not necessarily true just because it is old---or traditional. In fact, I like looking for truth in the intersection of tradition and novelty. That intersection is usually the place of change. Change could be described as the place where novelty is challenged by change.
This may seem like an odd lead in for a spirituality professor to comment on a business passage. But it was at precisely that change intersection between novelty and tradition that inspiration occurred. I was reading one of my favorite commentators on business matters, Rosabeth Moss Kantor. She teaches at Harvard Business School. It was a sentence in a blog about motivation.
Kanter was talking about special, highly motivated companies where engaged workers are transforming their business and, hopefully, the world. Then I hit this sentence. “Emphasis has shifted from output to impact---from how many products are sold to how much the products enrich the people’s lives in the broader society.” Immediately, I saw how with a little tweak this becomes a spiritual passage.
Religion and spirituality are not businesses, but they can become very business-like, if we are not careful. We only have to watch some television religious shows to see what I call, the commodification of religion. Religion sells products. Output equals dollars. And so on.
When I think about what Jesus, the Buddha and so many religious giants of old have done, I see the shift in emphasis that Kanter describes. Jesus was not interested in output, so much as he was motivated to cause impact. In fact, one could say it was the impact of Jesus that made all the difference.
The impact of Jesus, the Buddha, the Hindu sages and all the rest created the major religious traditions that exist today. However, I am sure every religious tradition is interested in nothing less than continuing to make an impact in individual human lives. The goal of these traditions is not to add me and you to the list of devoted souls---to count us among the outputs that will measure the success of the religious tradition. I am not a number and neither are you.
Rather the goal of spiritual traditions is to make an impact. The desired impact is to change my life and your life so that we are transformed human beings. As transformed human beings, we are on our way to becoming the saints that God intended in the very beginning.
And if I can be on the road to being a saint, then I am going to be living and acting in a way that will impact my own world. It means I will impact positively those around me. I can aspire to have a similar impact-effect on folks’ lives that Jesus had. Of course, I am not the Messiah---not sure we need another one! But I can be an impact. And I can make an impact.
And if enough of us strive to be impact-players, then the world will begin to be transformed and the kingdom will get a little closer to reality. That would be quite a spiritual impact.