We Want to Give You Space

We are heartbroken, angry, and confused. We aren’t sure what to say about everything that has transpired these past eleven days in the Middle East. Devastation of this scope is bewildering and impossible for us to wrap our heads around; words feel embarrassingly inadequate in the face of such violence and loss of life. Our hearts are heavy with grief, and hope feels unfathomably remote.

But staying silent doesn’t feel right either. As an organization, we believe in words, dialogue, and community. So while we may not be at our most articulate right now, we feel we need to say something.

That something doesn’t have the finesse of a polished PR statement or the elegance of a piece of poetry that can pithily evoke our despair. We can’t offer you reassuring answers or a cohesive point of view—certainly nothing in the way of comfort, confidence, or clarity. Instead, the something we have for you is open, vulnerable, and, admittedly, quite vague. To call it insubstantial would be an understatement. 

What we’re offering is tantamount to emptiness; we want to give you space. 

We’ve been thinking a lot about the grace of space—what it means to give another person the room they require to mourn in accordance with their customs or protest an injustice they perceive. Space is where dialogue happens and bridges are built; it’s where we’re able to listen to each other and begin the often difficult process of understanding a perspective we find inadmissible, even intolerable. Genuine dialogue—the kind we need to solve the much-cited polycrisis that defines our times—can be uncomfortable and disorienting. It may require that we grapple with our most deeply held convictions and challenge ourselves to rethink beliefs that feel indivisible from who we are. It’s a way of conversing that requires time, commitment, and space to claim as its own.

Like many of you, we’re exhausted by the powerless overtures on shared human values, the enduring appeal to our common experience, rhetoric that has done nothing to lift us from the brutality of the twentieth century into a kinder and more peaceful world. We’re left to surmise that, as a species, we don’t accept that we share something integral—we don’t actually believe that there’s meaning in the fact that we cry the same tears, bleed the same blood, or cherish our children with the same devotion. Or maybe the problem isn’t that we don’t believe it. Maybe the harrowing truth of the matter is that we just don’t care.

But thinking this way is impossible. It leaves us in merciless darkness, with nothing to strive for as a civilization, no recourse for optimism, nothing to give us hope. We have to believe that better is possible and, to do that, we have to keep listening. We have to keep talking. These are the simple, but infinitely crucial, principles that drive us at the House of Beautiful Business.

At the House, we know we need to hear from voices who want to do things differently, who can see past the cycles of inherited violence and propose new solutions, who recognize pain that hasn’t been acknowledged, and who can stand up to greed and extremism.

We need to listen to community members such as Bayo Akomolafe, whose writing argues for a new form of global activism and accountability. In a poignant article published on his blog last week, he questions how we can grieve without feeding the kind of repetitive anger that breeds violence again. We need to listen to Alex Evans, the founder and executive director of Larger Us, and his exploration of how we can build a broader and more inclusive society in the Middle East. We need to listen to Kristina Lunz, co-founder of the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy, and to Minna Salami, who chairs the Black Feminism and the Polycrisis program at The New Institute. We need to listen to Priya Parker, who has dedicated her career to research on meaningful gatherings, and helps members of diverse industries and communities have difficult, but vital, conversations. We need to listen to Bruno Giussani who sees, amidst all this chaos, the potential for courageous leaders who want a better, cleaner, and more inclusive future. And we need to listen to Esther Perel, whose writing inspires us towards new ideas of intimacy, challenging us to reconsider what it means to truly connect.

We also don’t pretend to be more than what we are: a business. And a community built around business. Any grand ambition to have a direct impact on the status quo would be insincere at best, and delusional at worst. But it’s not self-aggrandizing to claim that business is about interacting with the “other.” Business demands that we mediate between our differences in order to meet each other’s needs. And that meeting is never simply transactional; to meet someone’s needs effectively, you are also coming into contact with who they are—with their lives, preferences, and values. Every business encounter has the potential to be ethical, respectful, even beautiful. And so business becomes a powerful laboratory of social norms and behaviors, a place where kindness, compassion, humility, and collaboration can be modeled, prototyped, and learned.

In 2024 we are meeting in Tangier, Morocco, and in Arrábida, Portugal, for Between the Two Of Us, a festival about dialogue and bridging the gaps that divide us. It’s uncomfortable and sobering to be curating events around this theme amidst what’s going on in the world—so much so that we considered putting a pause on our marketing plans. But we realized that pausing wouldn’t be right. Now, more than ever, we need dialogue between disparate thinkers, between artists and entrepreneurs, between peace activists and climate specialists, between different ideas and cultures, between the Global South and North.

Now, more than ever, we’ll listen.

Hanae, Gabriella, Till, Tim, and the House of Beautiful Business team


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