Walter & His Dreams
Young Walter was born into this world as part of the elite. He was drilled in his family lineage and was taught how to steward the family fortune. He would go into another career, though, but his world view and life skills would travel with him.
Walter found favour with the king, and after paying the king a small fortune, he became Lord Chancellor. He was Chancellor for nine years before making another career change. He became a bishop.
Not unusual in those times, bishops were often political appointments from the aristocracy. He was appointed Bishop of Worcester for a couple of years, before taking the second-most-senior ecclesiastical title at that time, Archbishop of York. Walter had an even larger dream, though, larger than his own career. In 1220, work began. He began to build, in the Gothic style of the day, a cathedral. It would be such an edifice that he wouldn’t see it completed.
Sure enough, thirty years later, Walter died…
… and four centuries later York Minster was completed!
Forgive me, if you are a historian and indulge me in my historical fiction of Walter de Gray’s early years. But let me ask you this question …
What kind of person would embark on this kind of enterprise?
And what kind of people would continue with the dream until it was realised, so many generations later?
I’m fascinated by the minds behinds historic monuments, edifices that sometimes take generations to complete.
There is even an example happening right now. The beautiful Sagrada Familia in Barcelona will not be complete until 2026 or later, and its original architect, Gaudi, died in 1926 when it was only a quarter completed!
Why would Gaudi and his contemporaries commit to such a project?
And there are other examples. The Great Wall of China, the pyramids, Petra, and most of the ancient wonders of the world.
The poor, the middle class & the wealthy
I have been studying the work of Dr Ruby K Payne, a remarkable Texan educationalist, who began to unravel the mystery of why poor kids do so badly in school systems designed from in a Middle-Class mindset. In her, A Framework for Understanding Poverty, she sets out the differences in three mindsets:
- Poverty Mindset
- Middle Class Mindset
- The Wealthy Mindset
The attitude to money and financial horizons of each mindset is a particularly interesting one to me. This is part of a table Ruby Payne shares in her book, abridged by me:
|Spending & Payday||Saving & End of Life||Investing and Generational Legacy|
The Poverty Mindset sees money as something to be spent for almost immediate gratification or pain-relief, so the horizon tends to be when the next payday comes. The horizon of focus is now.
Moreover, living in a community of need, having money sometimes means it must be given to those in the community who have greater immediate needs. The needs of friends and family, who are vital relationships among the poor, regularly work against putting money away for later.
The Middle Class
The Middle-Class Mindset in a different way is much more selfish, although it has the appearance of prudence. Money is saved, is put by for retirement into a pension pot or a 401K. The focus is on providing for ourselves until we die. Many of the decisions made from this mindset are also made from an awareness of scarcity.
The Wealthy Mindset, or as I prefer to call it, the Noble Mind, invests for others. (Note: I have avoided the term Wealth Mindset because of its unhelpful associations with being or becoming financially rich. Whereas, the Noble Mind alludes to an ancient way of thinking from inheritance and the responsibility to leave a legacy.)
The Noble Mind thinks generationally, both from an inheritance from past generations and for future generations. It has a sense of noblesse oblige from its inheritance and sees itself having a purpose greater than itself.
So, it is a Noble Mind that decides to build a cathedral. It is a Noble Mind that continues to build even after the original entrepreneur or architect is no longer with us. Walter de Gray had a Noble Mind. Gaudi may have had a Noble Mind. Those who continued after them had, to some degree, a Noble Mind.
How do these mindsets play out in the present pandemic?
The pandemic and countermeasures such as lockdown, as well as the emotional reactions we all have to this threat, tempt us to become emotional survivalists: people who think only of ourselves and the horizon of when this will be all over.
This is situational, short-term, selfish thinking. It is either a poverty or a middle-class mindset. Fear tends to drive us towards a Poverty Mindset. Many of the us-and-them narratives feed a Middle Class world view, and these stories we plug into keep us in scarcity thinking.
And yet.. in the neighbourhood where I live, I have seen the rise of a kind of care and generosity that I hadn’t experienced before. Neighbours have offered to go shopping for us, plus a multitude of other kindnesses.
I find it exciting that, for some of us, this time is an opportunity to do this; to remember where we have come from, to recognise what we have, and rethink our futures, our horizons and our dreams for this world.
When it comes to the big issues of global sustainability, for example, we do not need initiatives driven by scarcity thinking:
“Time is running out!” “It may already be too late!”
Rather we need a realistic hope, a Stockdale hope. We need to train our young people to innovate with a Noble Mind, drawing upon what we leave them, rather than focusing on what we lack or have consumed.
In Simon Sinek’s The Infinite Game, he argues that organisations rallying to a Just Cause, to a purpose that is greater than any of us, are likely to prevail far longer than competitive, me too responses so common in business and politics.
When it comes to building businesses, we need leaders who are aware of their need to create missions bigger than themselves, their products, or their services; longer, even, than their lifetimes that make a real difference for future generations.
When it comes to crafting government policy, we need leaders who will lift our eyes to a better future, not driven by the mass media optics of the moment or the short-termism of considering the next electoral cycle. And as we think with a Noble Mind, we might recognise and find such leaders and perhaps vote for them.
What is your just cause? What’s your dream? Is it bigger than you and your lifetime? If it is, bless you.