Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Tuft of Flowers

I went to turn the grass after one
Who mowed it in the dew before the sun.

The dew was gone that made his blade so keen
Before I came to view the leveled scene.

I looked for him behind an isle of trees;
I listened for his whetstone on the breeze.

But he had gone his way, the grass all mown,
And I must be as he had been,---alone.

"As all must be," I said within my heart,
"Whether they work together or apart."

But as I said it, swift there passed me by
On noiseless wing a 'wildered butterfly,

Seeking with memories grown dim o'er night,
Some resting flower of yesterday's delight.

And once I marked his flight go round and round,
As where some flowers lay withering on the ground,

And then he flew as far as eye could see,
And then on tremulous wing came back to me.

I thought of questions that have no reply,
And would have turned to toss the grass to dry;

But he turned first, and led my eye to look
At a tall tuft of flowers beside a brook.

A leaping tongue of bloom the scythe had spared
Beside a ready brook the scythe had bared.

I left my place to known them by their name,
Finding them butterfly weed when I came.

The mower in the dew had loved them thus,
By leaving them to flourish, not for us,

Nor yet to draw one thought of ours to him,
But from sheer morning gladness at the brim.

The butterfly and I had lit upon,
Nevertheless, a message from the dawn,

That made me hear the wakening birds around,
And hear his long scythe whispering to the ground,

And felt spirit kindred to my own;
So that henceforth I worked no more alone;

But glad with him I worked as with his aid,
And, weary, sought at noon with him the shade;

And dreaming, as it were, held brotherly speech
With one whose thought I had not hoped to reach.

"Men work together," I told him from the heart,
"Whether they work together or apart."

Robert Frost
The Tuft of Flowers
American Poetry, A. B. de Mille, Allyn & Bacon (1923)

I often pick up one of my books and open it randomly looking for insight or inspiration. I let my intuition choose the book. I open the book randomly (although some would say that the page I open it to is also chosen by my intuition). The other day I picked a book of poetry that had been one of my mother's. It was published in 1923 when my mother would have been 11.

The poem I found was one by Frost that I had no recollection of ever having read before. The application of the main message of the poem to the innovation commons is obvious. Whether we work together or apart, at the same time, or asynchronously, we all work together. The innovation commons is just trying to find clues as to how to make what is a fundamental truth practical.

There are other clues within the poem.

The first workman was skilled at his job. The cut was even and clean, so much so that the speaker listened for the sound of the whetstone used to sharpen the blade.

The speaker is on a hero's journey or quest described by Joseph Campbell. A messenger appears - the butterfly. The speaker is attentive and gets the message. However, as is often the case in life, attention is not paid to the messenger, and the message is lost. Intuition again?

The first workman practices non-attachment. He is completely aware as he works and discovers a patch of beauty. He leaves the beauty not for anyone else, or to draw attention to his role in the discovery of beauty, but just because they are beautiful and he wishes them to flourish.

Likewise in an innovation commons, participants must not become so attached to their creations that they hold them back, but rather let them go so that can flourish.

Remember the bumper sticker "Practice Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Beauty"? Practical types criticized it. I would rephrase this motto to "Practice intuitive acts of kindness and sagacious beauty."

I often discover tufts of beauty in my work - thoughts, ideas, constructs or insights left by someone who has worked the field before me. The discovery provides me with great joy. I feel connected with a fellow worker. And, I try to share how the new ideas are integrated into my thinking.

We work together,
Whether we work together or apart.

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