Friday, September 18, 2009

64. Organizations as an Escape from our Mortality

Been Reading Morgan Gareth's book Images of Organization. One of his chapters entitled Organizations as Psychic Prisons. I was immediately all ears on this one. Check out this quote:

"...they encourage us to understand many of our symbolic acts and constructions as flights from our own mortality. In joining with others on the creation of culture as a set of shared norms, beliefs, ideas, and social practices, we attempt to locate ourselves in something larger and more enduring than ourselves. In creating a world that can be perceived as objective and real, we affirm the concrete and real nature of our own existence. In creating symbol systems that allow us to engage in meaningful exchanges with others, we also help to find meaning in our own lives. Although we may in quiet times confront the fact that we are going to die, much of our daily life is lived in the artificial realness created through culture. The illusion of realness helps disguise our unconscious fear that everything is highly vulnerable and transitory."

Basically, from this angle organizations can function as a distraction mechanism aimed at avoiding our mortality. Listen to some more of his jewels.

"This perspective suggests that we can understand organizations and much of the behavior within organizations in terms of a quest for immortality. In creating organizations we create structures of activity that are larger than life and that often survive for generations. In becoming identified with such organizations we ourselves find meaning and permanence. As we invest ourselves in our work, our roles become our realities, and as we objectify ourselves in the goods we produce or the money we make, we make ourselves visible and real to ourselves. No wonder that questions of survival are such a high priority in organizations, for there is much more than survival of the organization at stake."

Wow! this guy is touching on some very core issues facing churches and their institutional arrangements. As I stated in an earlier post, organizations can be a form of idolatry, and this guy really spells that out for us. I guess we see this in Genesis 11 with the Tower of Babel.
He goes on to talk about how the act of organizing ourselves is not neutral, but a reaction to our values, fears, insecurities and interests. It reminds me of the quote "Organization is the mobilization of bias."