The Misanthrope

   While working as a corporate employee at Countrywide Home Loans in California, I came across a print of “The Blind Leading The Blind,” by 16th century master Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Even though I am not an art connoisseur, it struck me immediately as a wonderful painting. In it, a blind man leads a group of peasants with a stick, and all of them are either falling or headed toward a ditch. The print reminded me of the leadership at my company, and I posted it conspicuously on the wall of my cubicle. I was expecting to be reprimanded or warned by my superiors, but perhaps Bruegel was more dead-on than I though: the item went unnoticed. A few months after I posted the picture, the company’s CEO, Angelo Mozillo, was blamed and investigated for his participation in the mortgage crisis of the mid-2000s; Countrywide soon closed its doors.
   Having experienced Bruegel’s depiction of poor leadership firsthand, I looked up more of his art. There are plenty of fabulous examples of it all over the Internet and in print. Two pieces caught my imagination: “Big Fish Eat Little Fish” and “The Misanthrope.” The first is quite easy to understand if you have ever heard of corporate mergers and acquisitions. The second was fascinating to me, even though I could not recognize its meaning right away. I didn’t even know what the title meant. I had to look up “misanthrope” to learn that it is a person who hates humankind. In the painting, an old man is inadvertently being robbed. His path is filled with thorns, and the caption at the bottom reads: “Since the world is so unfaithful, I am in mourning.”
Every so often I would look at the picture and wonder what it meant. I refrained from reading interpretations as I find that art critics often know too much and understand too little. The answer came to me one day while traveling. I was going up a flight of stairs at LAX when a neat young tourist exclaimed to the woman that was with him, “I hate people!” Wait a minute, I thought, aren’t they people?
   From then on I began to glimpse why I just didn’t get that painting. It conveys great disillusionment in mankind. The old man has no faith, and as a self-fulfilling prophecy he is being robbed. He is walking toward thorns, while in the background a shepherd enjoys his life, oblivious to bitterness.
   People in my line of business –marketing– are diametrically opposed to The Misanthrope. We tend to see the good in people. We are inclined to talk to strangers often. Everyone is interesting, everyone has a story. That is why I didn’t get Bruegel’s painting for so long. It just didn’t fit my logic.
   Not long ago I joined a “tribe.” It is a group of people that enjoy helping others grow their business, even though for the most part they are total strangers. The literal opposite of “misanthrope” is “philanthropist” or one that loves mankind. Even though the term is reserved for those who make grand contributions, I think that the people in my tribe are true philanthropists. Indeed, this generation of entrepreneurs is far from selfish or arrogant. Social media thrives largely on the generosity of everyone involved. We live in an era of sharing of ideas, concepts, models, images and everything that can contribute to the well-being of others.
   Bruegel perhaps intended to subtly show what was wrong in his society, and  through his art encourage others to behave otherwise. More than four hundred years after he embedded his wonderful vision on canvas, his spirit is shared in more powerful ways than he could have ever imagined.

17 thoughts on “The Misanthrope

  1. Mario,

    It was a pleasure talking to you on the phone today and I just finished reading your post. You are a great writer and should continue to follow this passion. Good stuff my friend!

    It's also wonderful having you in our TSA tribe and it is great to hear that you are having such fantastic results. Just stay plugged into the system and you'll see even better results in the future.

    Committed To Your Success!
    Dave and Dawn

  2. What a beautiful post Mario!
    It is amazing what can be taught and learned through great artists. Bruegel was obivously one of those artists. Thank you for sharing his powerful message. Self fulfilling prophecies can be our friend or our demise. I love being a part of a tribe as well. Us 'Tribers' really do embody the philanthropist spirit. It is the people that share and give that will reap rewards.

    Thanks Mario!

    Danielle Zack

  3. Very inspiring post Mario, and thanks for sharing. Beautiful remainder of those great Art galleries all over the world in Berlin, Amsterdam, New York, San Francicso. It is like stepping from one world in another, from the heat outside into the intense atmosphere of an art museum. It almost feels like time stands still for a while for you listening to messages, feeling the energy flowing towards you from a painting like you mentioned.

  4. Mario!
    What a GREAT post!!! I am so glad to meet you and that you are a TSA member! I love how you brought art into your discussion. Art talks through the images. You said some very insightful things. Nice to meet you and I look forward to more interesting posts from you! 🙂

  5. Mario,
    Art speaks to us in such a beautiful manner, just as music does. Since art lends itself to such a subjective interpretation, I too don't choose to read what the critics have to say. I want to put my own spin on it.

    Welcome to TSA. Nice to have you join our Tribe:)

  6. Mario,
    I really enjoyed reading your article. I think you're right in what you say here. If you go looking for bad in people you will surely find it and I like to think the same applies to good. It amazes me how great people are, particularly when these days we use the internet so much and never get to meet most of the people we interact with. I look forward to your next post! Regards, Andrew

  7. Hey Mario,

    Great to be part of this tribe with you! TSA is fantastic and helps and benefits a LOT of people. We are looking forward to taking it to the next level with the trainings etc.

    Gavin Mountford

  8. Hi Mario,

    So wonderful to have you as part of TSA! I really enjoyed your post ~ at first, I was thinking "whre is he going with this story", and then, like you finally did the Misanthrope print, I got it! LOL! I believe I would have had the same reaction as you did to that painting…because I'm not someone who hates humankind, and I always want to believe and find the good in people. Thank you for sharing this with all of us 🙂


  9. Mario,
    You do, indeed, have a great writing style… I very much enjoyed the post and look forward to reading more. Great story and excellent analogy!

    Wishing you continued success,

  10. Mario,
    Dawn here. I just read your post here and I love how you recognized our tribe for what it really is – an expression of love to all those who want to participate and spread the love. How could anyone hate mankind. We all here to help each other to truly live a happy, abundant and successful life.
    Congratulate yourself for not recognizing the negative
    meaning behind the painting.
    Let's keep loving and helping all our friends and TSA family!

  11. Mario
    I completely agree with you. I think we are emerging in an era of giving away and sharing valuable information with the whole world; though contributing for a better and fruitful life for humankind.

  12. Mario,
    Very interesting post depicting the analogy between good and evil. The beauty of art is we look at it through our own personal pair of sunglasses and see what we see in life.

    You've peaked my curiosity,
    Val 🙂

  13. Mario,

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment. That's how I found you. I have to agree you write beautifully.

    I'm building a "tribe" as well to help people with their online efforts. I'm a professional web developer. I'd like to have you join (it's free) and I'll be able to help you transition to WordPress easily.

  14. Hi Mario,
    interesting article. I like how you pointed out that the man lacked faith and therefore he got burgled.
    What we believe becomes true for us, what we focus on expands.
    Yes, I also like the TSA from the point of supporting each other.
    Thank you for your post.

  15. Of course that misanthropes see good in others but they are way more critical and honest with everyone around. Misanthropes don't hate people, they hate humankind. that's a big difference.

    "a neat young tourist exclaimed to the woman that was with him, "I hate people!" Wait a minute, I thought, aren't they people?"

    You can say that you hate ignorance. but wait, the more you know the more you don't know, right? simply as that.

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