My Cordes colleagues invited me to come with them to Indonesia. There we celebrated the 25th anniversary of our company. I’ve been a partner since 1992. So we share with each other half (?) of our working life: we married, got kids, said goodbye to people and did wonderful assignments.
Two colleagues have build a house at the Northern shore of Bali. We gathered in paradise and shared our best and worst memories of the past 25 years. Where and how we met, the first assignments, the seminars we organized, the clients we worked for and on and on.
Best was to have the time to dialogue with all of them individually. The past years I’ve been busy with many undertakings (UNOO, Health Innovation Lab, Presencing Institute, Global Leadership Network, large assignments with clients, writing) and have hardly been at our office in Amsterdam. It was great to connect and share what has kept, and still is keeping us busy. We talked a lot about our private life, just like the Balinese do. During a presentation we learned that most important to Balinese is religion (Hinduism), closely followed by their family, third was not so clear and fourth was their work. Their status in society is not linked to the job they have. The man who guards the house is the leader of the Ceremony and the taxi driver acts as Holy man. That made us think. In the West we are so much identified with our work and career.
Putu guided us through the rice paddies and had us swim in the river. When we encountered some houses he shared with us the reason behind all the offerings. ‘You see, there are five pieces of palm tree leaves in front of the house. With some rice put on it. That is to satisfy the demons. We give them something to eat so that they behave well. We need to live with them, so we better make them feel more comfortable. Like this they will probably not enter our house. We take five small offerings for the directions: east where the sun comes up, west where the sun goes down and towards the sea and towards the mountains and of course one in the middle to connect them all.’
‘What did you say about towards mountains and sea?’ I asked.
‘Yes we don’t have North and South in Bali. It depends from where you are. It’s more important to know where the sea is with the demons and where the mountains are with the gods.’
‘That makes sense. How about the monkey statues next to the entrance of the houses? They all have offerings and a cloth around their hips?’
‘Yes, the black and white blocked cloth stands for good and bad. Both is there and we need to live with it. Black stripe is for bad and white stripe is for good. The grey in between is where both meet. We need to offer everyday to these statues. Just like you do with your cell phones’
‘It’s just as with your mobile. You need to charge them everyday otherwise they are useless. These statues need to be loaded by us through the offerings. Other wise they become just pieces of stone. When we charge them everyday they will keep the demons out of our house,’ he tells us. That makes us think. Religion becomes tangible now. ‘If I believe you ask me? It’s not about believing. It’s more like warm and cold. It can be cold or warm. It just is. That is the same with religion. It just is. You see this Swastika? It’s about the horizontal connection between us human beings and the connection between the under and the upper world. They turn counterclockwise and mingle.’ And he continues sharing his wisdom: ‘Do you see these fruits? Any idea what they are? These are cashew nuts. Now you know why they are so expensive in your country. Every fruit the size of a small paprika is only one nut. And this is cacao. The farmers plant them here. To you this seems maybe jungle, but they are planted. The advantage of cacao is that you can harvest them all year long. But of course because of that the soil is being exploited and after ten years nothing grows here anymore. So we need to take care,’ he talks for hours while we are trying to catch our breath. His grandfather was a Balian (traditional medicine man) and he refers many times to the wise words of his father. He is only 35 (?) year old with 4 kids. ‘Yes, we don’t identify with our work. Sometimes we teach children and tourists something. Then we call somebody a teacher. Maybe later today I need to tend the garden. Then I am a gardener. And when I am leading a ceremony I might be a priest. It just depends what we are doing.’
My colleagues had a strategy meeting about Cordes into the future. I wrote the second chapter of my new book. That was a little strange and it felt good at the same time. I left our firm October 1 and will dedicate my time to UNOO, writing, organizing seminars and doing international projects. A challenging new international project would be to clean Bali from all the plastic. I’ve been fantasizing about ‘Cleaning Bali in a day‘ as they have done in Estonia. Who knows what the future will bring?
I feel very grateful to my colleagues that we took the time to end our working relationship in such a beautiful way. I gave them the last evening a bronze statue of a smiling baby Buddha, mockingly stating that this was my highest future potential. Whenever they feel stressed or tensed, they should stroke him over his head and be silent for a minute.