The other day I sat with the CEO of a terrific biotech start-up that is on the verge of pulling the rug out from under cancer's dirty feet. He tells me about the principle of cancer, which he once learned to understand better than he would have liked, and he describes it so clearly and plausibly that I understood - completely unscientifically at that - that cancer is contagious.
The misery proliferates and proliferates.
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It affects the environment of the patients, their families, people close to them, and so on and on. It does not affect them directly organically, but in the soul connection, which is all too often overstretched by the wild growth of the tumour, regularly emaciated and crushed, and thus also indirectly causes something organically. Naturally.
Cancer could be prevented, the CEO told me. Not eradicate it, but prevent it if our immune system were much, much stronger, or not so overloaded and distracted by everything we put it through, the immune system. Then it could remove the cellular waste, as long as it is still cellular waste and not called cancer, and no one would notice much, or even suffer from it.
He explained to me that there are so many types of cancer that no one really knows what they are, and that each of them needs its own therapy. But if our immune system were boosted and so strong and focused that it could do beforehand what otherwise complicated therapies supported by will, anger and hope could do in the best case, none of this would be necessary. That's how I understood it.
And on the way home I understood something else:
Our time, our world - our society - has cancer because our immune system is completely overloaded and distracted by everything we put ourselves and it through, the immune system of our living together.
So the rubbish that our overall organism could cope with without much fuss proliferates, grows and grows and grows, outgrows us, and has long since outgrown us.
Sometimes we call it "the system", sometimes "progress" or something like that, sometimes we say something with 4.0 behind it, so that the child has a name that smells like natural law & fate or a bit necessary or desirable, and so we get an excuse behind which we can entrench ourselves.
The truth is that something is proliferating out of us and back in again, and our immune system stands there with a perplexed shrug in its eyes, because something has gone mightily out of hand, but there was no child there to call the naked truth by its name: "Those I called, the spirits, I can't get rid of now!"
What happened here could have been learned in German lessons before biology, if Goethe wasn't written in ö and someone projected "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" into today's life beyond three- and four-letter trochaea. Or on the iPad, if you like. Then everyone can see where the mirrors hang in which you can see what you don't particularly like. Yourself, for example.
And if you are lucky enough to have someone tell you how you can make this picture a better one, then you won't be lucky, but you will finally have what you deserve: a real teacher at your side who will illuminate a piece of the path to your truth. You have to walk it yourself anyway, but you don't have to stumble. Others would have done that before you, probably Göte too, and written something down for you.
We pass on what we understand to future generations. Beyond specialist knowledge and expertise - in our stories, myths and histories - in non-fiction books that inspire, in theatre plays that make people see, in films that move with moving images, with the truths that last for generations in stories between the covers of books, as poetry and lyrics.
Joseph von Eichendorff passed on a "divining rod" to us almost 200 years ago:
Sleeps a song in all things
that dream on and on,
and the world begins to sing,
you only hit the magic word.
What is the magic word of our time, and what are we awakening with it? What spirits are we awakening? And what will we, who are shaping system & progress here and now, then pass on one day? Does anyone want that?
What have we understood of what has been passed on to us? Have we understood enough, or anything at all?
And if so, why is it that you can no longer take a step without someone at the next corner being
1. mindfulness and
2. appreciation, while at the same time
3. purpose and
Or, if he can't find all that himself, at least offer you an online course at a preferential price , in which you can find all that under his expert guidance, after you definitely didn't succeed in the free webinar?
Are these buzzwords really our magic words that we need to hit in order for the world to start singing?
If that is really the case, then we have not understood a lot, because mindfulness, appreciation, purpose and meaning would be the basic functions of the immune system of our life (together). - Yes, the immune system is like electricity: you only notice it when it fails.
I remembered a sentence that Gloria Steinem passed on to us: "The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn. Fortunately, as early as 400 BC, Antisthenes passed on "The most useful thing we can learn in life is to unlearn what is untrue".
We don't have to learn mindfulness and appreciation at all, but rather unlearn the opposite, that is, unlearn to love things and use people in the sense of the wise Dalai Lama. There is a song that sleeps in all human beings, so to speak: "Purpose & Sinn" it is called.
Purpose & Meaning - whatever that means for each of us in concrete terms - creates our inner story that we tell ourselves. Who am I, and if so, why? Our values are the magic words with which we wake them up - magic values ...
When you consider that there are around 130 values and that there have been around 108 billion people on earth so far, even I can work out that some of us have to get by with the same values. The realisation that most of us know the same magic words and can thus quite automatically sing a common song ... is obvious.
Growth, by the way, is not a value, but vigilance is, and a vital component of our social immune system at that. When vigilance is working well, we are instantly alerted as soon as "more" turns into "too much", begins to proliferate and the song in things falls asleep.
If we really need to know something new about this, we recommend looking at old books.
"Moby Dick" by Herman Melville is one of these eternally valid tales, inspired by a true story, passed down through generations, it has lost nothing of its topicality since 1851. On the contrary: it is about man who, in his hubris, sets out to fight against nature and wants to put his misunderstanding of the earth as a subject into practice, no matter what the cost. Nature as an enemy, as a source of exploitation and wealth. Mindfulness and appreciation appear on almost every page, or not ...
And then "Moby Dick" also takes us along on a wave of knowledge also about leadership and seduction. About seduction into a war driven by madness and hatred of the Leviathan, of identified and named evil, as the narrator of the book describes: "I, Ishmael, was one in that crew, my cry of vengeance had risen with the others for the horror of my soul. With greedy ear I heard the tale of the monster to whom I and all others vowed vengeance and destruction." - Nothing learned from history?
Or the "Odyssey", in which Homer tells us, among other things, about the wanderings of a determined man, again about leadership and seduction, then about cunning and lust and burden. When you read the chapter about the seductive song of the sirens, you wonder how Homer knew so much about social media, but we still know far too little.
Or the "King Arthur" legend, which in all its variations repeatedly reports on the inevitability of vocation. About the call that often comes to people no one had on their list in a breathtaking magnitude and force, and about the acceptance of this call, about the primordial task of man to bring peace and order where war and chaos rage. - It seems that meaning and purpose already existed in the Middle Ages ...
We pass ourselves on in our stories, and they are always the same stories, retold, understood, and all too often not.
Rock & Soul.
Knowledge can be delivered on an epic scale, but can also be delivered in a light-hearted manner, because there is nothing at all wrong with an "aha!" wrapped up in good-humoured entertainment.
As an author who also takes great pleasure in turning a purring wheel in the entertainment business, this is always a principle for my work, because I am convinced that even in seemingly mundane things like musicals there are songs slumbering that can still resonate in people when the catchy tunes have long since fallen silent. Rock my Soul" is currently running at the Metropol in Vienna - already the seventh musical that Peter Hofbauer and I have shaken out of our dowsing rods, which have mutated into fountain pens.
After the brilliant initial success and the Corona-induced full braking of the play, everyone is now looking forward to a third dance leg, finally enjoying live theatre again. In the flower power sound of the 70s, here's a story about big dreams, even bigger expectations and rash promises that sometimes have too little space in small worlds and therefore burst. But it also tells us that we can build new dreams out of the fragments, and that a team is more than its members and leadership is more than commanding. The star-studded revival - Andy Lee Lang, Conny Mooswalder, Vincent Bueno, Stella Jones and others - runs until 5 November. You can see a ten-minute trailer of "Rock my Soul" here; tickets are available here.
If we are talking about good humour, then the way to HUMORdination is not far from Dr. Roman Szeliga. It is a special pleasure for me to work with him, Austria's No. 1 humour expert, as well as with Sigrid Tschiedl, the ramp woman in person, in our project "MindBusters - Encouraging people to join in" and, as an extra, to learn from him while enjoying his friendship.
Not only as a magician is Roman always good for a surprise. At our last performance together, he surprised me with a special gift he found in his archive (or in his sleeve?): "The Story-Teller" from October 1928 was passed on to him by his Aunt Evelyn and has now landed at The Story Dude, so right in my heart, and there it stays. Thank you, Roman!
Stories and books we have read are part of our biography. Some people pass on books they have read, I usually keep them. Because every rule needs an exception, there are two for this rule.
Exception number one is on my street corner in the form of the open bookcase. Some of my books go there, especially those that I have twice. And I hope that my deposits there will soon grow elsewhere and bear rich fruit.
By the way, the part is so crooked not because I put too much heavy food in it, but because that was obviously the designer's idea. Perhaps as a metaphor for the fact that some people hold their heads at an angle when they think, so that the little bit of brain fat they have in stock runs together? What do I know ...
Exception number two is in Wieselburg, straight as a die. Some time ago I closed the chapter on advertising with many thanks for the exciting decades full of moments of happiness for me, but I didn't want my library of advertising books to wither away on the top shelf, but rather to act as inspiration fertiliser and therefore to plough into the right place.
I am glad that this was possible in the new library of the "Marketing & Sustainable Innovation" department at the Wieselburg campus of the Wiener Neustadt University of Applied Sciences, of all places. The head of the library, Elke Gosch, and Reinhard Herok, research assistant for Green Marketing, personally lugged boxes of books with me until several intervertebral discs per person creaked, and now hopefully they won't forget their important jobs and all the valuable knowledge they are allowed to pass on while sniffing through books.
For me, Sustainable Innovation is the most important thing that companies and entrepreneurs can pass on in view of the situation of our planet, which is riddled with multiple necessities, so that they do not grow out of control and become incurable. Sustainable Innovation is something like a booster for the global-social immune system, in which everyone can act as an active cell, because entrepreneurial people don't have to act as entrepreneurs without exception, they can also bang the drum as intrapreneurs within their organisations: Everyone a Changemaker. I had the chance to talk to Marie Ringler about this and about mentors and entrepreneurship that benefits everyone, and you can join the conversation in the latest episode of my podcast.
Marie Ringler is someone who is passionate about social entrepreneurship. As the founder of Ashoka in Austria and now the European Director of this globally active network, she knows the needs and hopes of the growing number of social entrepreneurs, i.e. those people who take an entrepreneurial approach to socially necessary improvements - entrepreneurs who measure their success first and foremost by their impact on positive change for society and not by profit and shareholder value.
As a member of the mentor panel in the TV programme "2 Minutes - 2 Mentors", she therefore brings first-hand expertise when young visionaries present their big ideas and look for supporters.
In my podcast, she talks about what's behind social entrepreneurship and why it's one of the most powerful levers to pull in this world. Changemakers, pay attention!
Sleeps a changemaker in everyone,
who dream away and away
and the world begins to sing,
You just hit the magic word
Joseph von Eichendorff would say, if he knew English better.
Changemaker - this is the magic word our divining rod may point to in a new story we tell ourselves and each other, one New Storythat we bring to life. It is about all of us, about what unites us, not what divides us, and that is why the world is beginning to sing. The New Story is about what we heal, about what we pass on so that it grows as gently as it grows powerfully, not proliferating for its own sake.
This new story might tell less about what we have achieved, but more about what we have realised. This new story is less about what we have realised and more about how we have transformed ourselves. It is not about what was, but about our truth. This is our inner story, the story that sleeps in all of us. It boosts our immune system against seductibility, it protects our dignity, and it is ultimately all - and also the best - that we can pass on, if we wake it up ...
My grandmother, old Story Dudette, wrote a song about these things. It's called "No Story. No Glory."