I revisited these two quotes that are attributed to Michelangelo recently. He said:
I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.
Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.
My mind went to the pandemic and what we are focusing on in the news and daily briefings and juxtaposed it with these two quotes. The artist’s eye is trained to see what others do not always see. Michelangelo used his eye to see the angel in the marble or the statue that was inside the block of stone.
We are all experiencing a pandemic together across the world. Metaphorically it is our “block of stone.”
What could we see in our current situation if we used our artist’s eye?
Our attention and focus are a critical resource in our organizations, our leadership, and our life. If we are reading the news every day, it is capturing our attention and focusing it. Sometimes it is hindering our ability to see what is not being talked about in our news feed or daily briefings.
I think the ability to see what is not always visible as an essential element of leadership in an external environment where there are more unknowns than knowns. In fact, there are some things that are unknowable in this pandemic and will not be fully understood until we reflect on it in retrospect after time has passed.
One way to see our current situation differently is to ask different questions of ourselves. For example:
- What is emerging in myself as I shelter in place?
- What is this pause teaching us about how humans have impacted the world and its climate?
- What structures, processes and thinking are looking like their time is up?
- What weaknesses or fractures have been exposed during this pandemic?
- What am I resisting and why?
- Am I focusing more on how to get back to the old normal?
- Or am I focusing on running as fast as I can toward the new?
These are just an example of how shifting questions causes us to focus on and pay attention to something that is in our peripheral vision, but not capturing our direct focus.
I am spending some time wondering how we will be different (both individually and in our larger society) once we emerge from the threat of this pandemic. These are some of my questions that help me view the “block of stone” that is this pandemic and try to see what is inside (like Michelangelo’s angel) wanting to be exposed:
- What will we do differently in our organizations?
- What are the “lessons learned” from our pause about our public policy, our politics, the way we see leadership, our impact on the environment, etc.?
- How will my days and weeks be different going forward?
- How will I be different? Will I think differently about organizations, leadership, community, our world?
- What are the possibilities that this pandemic brings to reshape our world that can make it more regenerative, resilient, more equitable and more just?
Even a pandemic has positive lessons for us to consider. Nature has disruptions on a regular basis whether they are earthquakes, forest fires, hurricanes, floods, etc. However, nature does not hold on to the old form. Rather, nature adapts and restores and regenerates the ecosystem that has been disrupted. Is that the possibility we are being called to see in the pandemic?