Our desire to do good work needs to address the disconnect between ourselves and reality. We have a tendency to shape the world to our needs rather than to embrace it on its own terms. Good work requires us to awaken all our senses, to discover and celebrate our world, to embrace and value what is good, beautiful and true in the ordinary things of life.
This ancient story comes from Ireland. Fionn MacCumhail asked his followers – “What is the finest music in the world?” They offered a number of answers – a cuckoo calling from the hedge, the crash of waves on the beach, the giggle of young child. “All these make good music”, Fionn agreed. “So what is the finest music?” they asked. “The music of what happens.” replied Fionn.
Good work has its roots in the soil of life, in what happens moment by moment, and the quality of attention we bring to it. A core discipline of good work is to come to our senses, to value the multi-sensual means by which we experience the world. No moment is too small. I peel an orange and the aroma awakens me, anticipating the taste of the fruit in my mouth. I shake someone’s hand and the exchange is an invitation to relationship. No two handshakes are the same and my ability to discern the subtle signals of touch and movement will determine what happens next.
Our eyes can see and our ears can hear but only our heart (the centre of our being) can discern the music of what happens. As we open ourselves to what happens it becomes our teacher. As the American philosopher Jacob Needleman reminds us, “we genuinely know what is good only when the whole of ourselves knows it – when it is known not only in the mind, but in the body and heart”. This calls for dual attention – the ability to observe closely what is happening before our eyes or ears while, at the same time, noticing what is happening in ourselves.