The language of objects

“The language of objects catches only one corner of human life”
Martin Buber

If we want to survive in the world we need to know how to relate to everything around us as an object (an ‘it’) – something that is of use, that can be formed, or shaped, or measured in some way, that can serve our needs. Without this, we would soon die. Or, at the very least, all our intentions to have anything happen in the world would be thwarted.

But just because the past 200 years of science and technology have given us an explosion of new ways to objectify the world so we can shape it, please don’t be misled into thinking that’s all there is to human life.

If we don’t pay attention, pretty soon we can reduce everything – including people – to objects. And then we miss the possibility of encountering anything of substance. All we get is surface.

So, by all means, do the necessary work to measure what people around you are up to. Assign scores, gradings, personality types, psychometrics. Rate people by their performance, their ROI, their bonus, their job title. Do all this in whichever way helps you to have what matters to you actually happen.

But, please, don’t mislead yourself that what you’ve created is all there is about them, or that you’ve ‘got them nailed’ in some essential way.

Because behind your measures – indeed all around them – people are worlds of immense complexity and depth. And, however efficient we’re getting, we need to remember this if we’re going to go beyond surviving and do work in which people can actually thrive.

Photo Credit: 96dpi via Compfight cc

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