World Spirituality Unplugged is a regular new column on this website which will feature highlights from the Center for World Spirituality’s substantial audio and video archives which are more relevant than ever before. The short clip posted here (about 5 minutes) features an excerpt from a dialogue between John Mackey and Marc Gafni, recorded in 2010 for the Future of Love Teleseries, an online event for which CWS was a co-sponsor.

Marc Gafni, as you are well aware, is the Director and Scholar-in-Residence for the Center. John Mackey is not only the Chairman and CEO of a $4 billion Fortune 500 company, he is also Co-Chair of the Board of the Center for World Spirituality. Mackey was named the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur Of The Year in 2003. John is a strong believer in FLOW principles, including free market principles and empowerment management.  He is also one of the most influential advocates in the movement for organic food. Whole Foods was the first grocery chain to set standards for humane animal treatment.

Early in the dialogue, John Mackey offers a definition of business that situates it right at the heart of human care and concern:

Marc: As we talk about love today, we’re talking about it not from a Christian perspective, or from a Jewish perspective, or from a Muslim perspective, or a Buddhist, or a Taoist, or a Native American, we’re talking about a perspective which transcends and includes them. And by “transcend,” I mean trance-end. We end the trance of one particular understanding, we receive what’s best and deepest in it, and link it with an understanding of the understandings available all over the globe and history, in a way that was never really available before. That’s the context that we’re talking about. We’re not going to be referring to it any more today. In that context, from that place, we’re talking about love and business, love and commerce, love and capitalism.

When the average person walks down the street and thinks about love and then they think about business, they think what do those things have to do with each other. Business: isn’t that about making profit? Love: that’s that spirit feeling that I have that’s all about sacrifice, things that have little to do with the material. We got a few emails from people saying: Love and Business? What’s that about? We wrote back: Tune in and listen and find out.

It’s delightful to be with you. What would your response be to those people? How does love actually act and show up in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person? 1st – love that you feel moving through you; 2nd – interpersonal love, love in the space of the We; 3rd – love as the force of the universe. How does that show up in the world of commerce and business. John, be our teacher.

John: Okay, Marc. It’s sort of an odd question: what does love have to do with business? There’s sort of an assumption that business and commerce and capitalism are not fully human activities. That they are held apart in some way. That’s part of the problem. We have this stereotype of business based on metaphors of greed and selfishness based on this belief that it’s all about profit and money, and therefore it’s less than human. If that’s really what business is, then I think people would be right to condemn it. But that’s not been my experience with business. Business is as much a human activity as anything else. Human are engaging in it. Love is appropriate in business. In fact, love is essential in business if it’s going to reach its full potential.

Marc: Say more about that, John. You’re saying that love lives in business. Love is one of the natural human activities, so this split is a false split. From your own personal experience or from a meta-frame, how does love show up as a force or deep factor as you do business?

John: The first thing to understand is that business is almost always done as community, meaning a business or company is a group of people that are working together. They are working together to create value for other people. In fact, the very essence of what business is is voluntary exchange creating value for other people. That’s not only ethical, but when you go down to the roots it is a profoundly loving act – it can be and should be. We create about other people, and we’re cooperating in order to create value for them. I see business as fundamentally based on voluntary exchange between people for mutual benefit. A company has employees that work together, creating value for customers. Customers exchange voluntarily for a business. That exchange creates value for the suppliers that are exchanging with the business, which creates value for investors. The whole activity of commerce, when you move away from the caricature, you discover that at its root it is people in community creating value for each other. That can be and should be a profound act of love, care, and compassion.

Marc: What a gorgeous definition of business!

Listen to the whole audio for Part 1.