Wednesday, August 10, 2011

WB's Way: The 78th Most Common Word

From ‘70s and ‘80s pop music:

Ooh, baby I love your way [Peter Frampton]
That’s just the way it is [Bruce Hornsby]
You can go your own way [Fleetwood Mac]
That’s the way of the world [Earth, Wind & Fire]

I don’t think I could’ve guessed that the word “way” is one of the most common written words in the English language. Now that I know it is, though, I’ll pay even closer attention.

Way originally meant “road, path, or course of travel.” A definition that interests me more, however, is: “a manner, method, or means” – as in a way of doing or of knowing. As in there are as many different ways of being as there are humans.

I’ve actually been paying some attention to its use for a while. This blog (as an indication) is all about various ways of managing. Every manager has her way. The Harvard Business School teaches its comprehensive way. Tom Peters recently summed up and tweeted about his way this way: 

"Cherish your people, cuddle your customers, wander around, 'try it' beats 'talk about it,' pursue excellence, tell the truth."
I haven’t thought this through, but – an exposition of Wendell Berry's way would almost certainly include and revolve around these notions: 
  • we (people) have to act; 
  • we have to act on the basis of what we know; 
  • what we know is incomplete; 
  • therefore, “the question of how to act in ignorance is paramount.” 

The Way of Ignorance. That’s the title of a 2005 collection of his essays. It's also a name I think he’d still happily give to his general approach to things. How do his thoughts (more specifically) about business follow from it? That’s what I hope to keep exploring and writing about...

A ways down the road.

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