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Mothers, soldiers and other entrepreneurs


Thought bubbleTrapped in an endless meeting the other day, one of those meetings where you lose track of what the meeting was originally about (hermeneutics? badgers?) and start trying to remember all the girls you ever had a crush on, or former Geelong Cats, or both (Bernie Smith! Theresa O'Connell!), I got to pondering the word entrepreneurship, which is, let's admit it, a rhinoceros of a word, with more vowels than seems decent in polite society.

Unternehmen in German, 'a'a in Hawaiian, hyrwyddwr in the Welsh, all meaning he or she who undertakes, attempts, essays, begins ... and my mind spins away completely, chewing on the way that a word which means vast and amazing things has become so commonplace and thin.

To attempt, to begin, is really to dream, to envision, to speculate, and then to work like a burro to implement, to create, to make real. So mothers are entrepreneurs, aren't they?

And Christ, too, and especially Saint Paul, the greatest public relations agent ever; did he not envision that which might come to pass, and then work the market with unthinkable energy and creativity, until what he envisioned came to pass, and passeth still even in our time?

Or a novelist — does she not undertake to make a dream real, and sell many units of the created dream, so as to pawn the movie rights off to a hapless studio, and maketh enough money to buy Samoa? Or a cop — isn't he an entrepreneur, really, envisioning a world that might be, and working furiously and brilliantly to bring it to birth?

And soldiers — in the final analysis are they not wholly invested in a world beyond violence, where no child weeps in terror, and guns are all in hushed museums, and when people hear the word war they burst out laughing as at the most excellent and silly joke, which maybe someday war will be?

And colleges and universities — are they not the most entertaining entrepreneurial adventures, really, selling a remarkably ephemeral product, insisting eloquently on their primacy in a culture that often sneers at wisdom, and continually undertaking the riveting and visionary project of shaping raw and selfish teenagers into generous and subtle agents of hope and courage?

And some countries — are they not fascinatingly difficult entrepreneurial ideas at their hearts?

Australia, for example, dreamed into being by boat people many thousands of years ago, and by brave restless wanderers like Matthew Flinders, and unquenchable open hearts like Weary Dunlop and Cathy Freeman and Mary MacKillop, and by the miner's son who in my mind essentially created modern Australia when he told Winston Churchill to buzz off in 1942; this new sort of country, said its creators, would endeavor to treat everyone equally, and choose its CEO by vote of the workers, and give even slimy murderous thugs a fair trial, and undertake to create a society where everyone is educated, everyone has enough to eat, everyone can think and say and dress and act pretty much as they please, and you can pray any way you want, to whatever Coherent Mercy you are awed by.

Isn't that a wild idea made real? 

My meeting ended eventually, after what seemed like weeks. For days afterwards I found odd pieces of paper in my pockets, with gnomic notes (Tom Harley! Maureen McArdle!), but now I think maybe that was the best meeting ever, because it woke me up again to an idea so glorious no word can properly contain or explain it.

Hyrwyddwrship, let us call it — the thing that most sets us apart from our companion species on this wild rock in the airless void, the thing that may yet save us all, the thing that we may well be here for, the thing that makes us the very image of God. We can dream, we can imagine — and then we can work like burros to make it real. Let's go.

Brian DoyleBrian Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland. 

Topic tags: Brian Doyle, entrepreneurs, Unternehmen, 'a'a, hyrwyddwr



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Existing comments

Who was it who told WC to buzz off? Tell us please, and did he get a medal?

Michael Grounds | 04 May 2011  

Your prime minister, Curtin.

Brian Doyle | 05 May 2011  

Yes, yes and yes again (except for those unwarranted Geelong pop-ups)! Thanks.

DM | 05 May 2011  

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