An Urgency to Live from the Heart


| July/August 2001


Whether it’s the expansive release that comes with warm weather or the easing of our financial pressure, we’re breathing more deeply and laughing more freely around the office these days. We’re far from out of the woods, and there are plenty of looming problems (like an impending postal in-crease), but we have—thanks, in part, to your renewals and gift subscriptions—gained ourselves a little time.

And what are we doing with the opportunity this breathing space has provided? I’ve written in this column about some of the nuts-and-bolts changes we’re trying and the new models of doing business we’re exploring. But there is another, deeper process we’ve all been engaging in.

Coming as close to an economic iceberg as we did last year forced us to really examine our purpose in continuing to publish Utne Reader. Had we perhaps outlived our usefulness? Is it even possible to create a sustainable business out of a single-title national magazine? The jury is still out on the second question, but an exciting answer to the first is emerging.

We’ve concluded that our role as a clutter cutter in a sea of ever-expanding information and as a guide to breakthrough ideas and visionary thinkers is as essential as ever. Moreover, the trust and connection we have with you, our network of engaged reader-activists, is a powerful resource at a time when so much that we care about is in increasing jeopardy.

In order to wield this power effectively and to be deserving of your trust, we have had to do—and continue to do—a lot of cleanup, changing all the ways that we as a business have become habit-bound or careless.

Almost half our staff has been here for more than five years, and a quick calculation tells me that the 13 who have been around the longest (not necessarily employed all this time, but associated with Utne Reader) represent over 150 years and many neglected 'I’m sorry's and 'thank you's that have accumulated over 17 years of publishing. Together we have done nearly all the things we possibly could to complicate the process of working together—mingling marriages, money, children, and racking up more than a few soap opera episodes in the process—but all while getting the magazine out issue after issue. We’ve been looking at where we’ve walked our talk and where we’ve fallen short, as part of the process of knitting together new and longtime staffers and building the foundation of trust and mutual respect that must occur before the company takes its next major steps.

I am struck by what a gift it is to be in relationship with a community of people over time, so that there is an opportunity to deepen and grow. In this throwaway culture, it is a rare thing to share so much history. So we’ve been thinking a lot about community, about how to strengthen and empower our own here in the office and around Minneapolis, as well as how to link with all the communities that you, our readers, participate in. Increasingly, we are aware that we belong to a burgeoning movement of people who feel a commitment and urgency to live from the heart and to honor the planet and all her creatures.