Introduction: The Focus to Date
Over the course of the last several decades, worksite wellness programs have been on offer across America and elsewhere. All are designed as part of efforts to reduce organizational insurance costs, promote worker morale, reduce absenteeism and high risk behaviors, boost productivity, increase health and so on. All well and good; these kinds of incremental programs will surely continue for the indefinite future.
Among the major issues that corporate leaders, the research community and others address are:
• What kind of incentives will boost participation and desired outcomes?
• How attractive are the returns on these investments?
• Which segments of the population get the most (and least) from wellness education?
• And, how can such investments be accurately evaluated?
These and other matters are significant and should be explored.
A Larger Vision, A Broader Goal
Why stop there? Saving money, boosting health, keeping track and all the rest are fine. However, there are opportunities inherent in the nature of REAL wellness that are not likely to arise in standard medically-focused, risk-reduction offerings. The reason? Most are not even wellness offerings. The programming is mainly warmed-over health education, nice but nowhere near the life-changing, quality of life-boosting possibilities that could be promoted.
To change lives and world views, perhaps we should encourage people to consider how they might improve themselves. Assuming, of course, that room for improvement is perceived as possible, given one's sense of his or her existing state of near perfection. (For anyone suffering from this delusion, consider this from Michel de Montaigne, an essayist who lived from 1533-1592: There is no man so good, who, were he to submit all his thoughts and actions to the laws, would not deserve hanging ten times in his life.)
Let's look, then, at a hypothetically improved man. What views, perspectives, values and or passions would improved man embrace or favor?
Here are a few possibilities, based upon qualities described by Robert Green Ingersoll in a speech entitled, Improved Man in 1890.
How closely do these ideas reflect your own thinking? To what extent do you align with such standards?
In the following, some paragraphs are exactly as Ingersoll spoke the words. These are are in italics and others are lightly edited for length. The entire speech is accessible at the link, above.
• The improved man or woman will favor universal liberty. He or she will be opposed not just to kings and nobles but all privileged classes. He will give others the rights he claims for himself - a rule as practical as it is golden.
• He will be brave. He will neither bow nor cringe, nor accept bowing and cringing from others. He will be neither master nor slave, neither prince nor peasant.
• He will oppose all caste, no matter whether its foundation be wealth, title or power.
• He will favor universal education so that all might gain useful knowledge and develop their minds along natural paths leading to human happiness.
• He will not waste his time in ascertaining the foolish theories of extinct peoples, or in studying the dead languages for the sake of understanding the theologies of ignorance and fear, but he will turn his attention to the affairs of life, and will do his utmost to see to it that every child has an opportunity to learn the demonstrated facts of science, the true history of the world, the great principles of right and wrong applicable to human conduct.
• He will develop his mind to appreciate the beautiful, the highest art, so that stones, called facts, may be changed into statues.
• He will believe only in the religion of this world. He will have nothing to do with the miraculous and supernatural. He will find that there is no room in the universe for these things. He will know that happiness is the only good, and that everything that tends to the happiness of sentient beings is good, and that to do the things -- and no other -- that add to the happiness of man is to practice the highest possible religion.
• He will expect everyone to be his or her own priest and will view the brain as the real cathedral.
• He will not be shaped, guided or bowed by numbers or force, antiquity or custom. He will decide for himself.
• He will not endeavor by prayers and supplication, by fastings and genuflections, to change the mind of the 'Infinite' or alter the course of nature, neither will he employ others to do those things in his place.
• He will know that honest labor is the highest form of prayer. He will spend no time in ringing bells of swinging sensers, or in chanting the litanies of barbarism, but he will appreciate all that is artistic -- that is beautiful -- that tends to refine and ennoble the human race.
• He will not live in fear or in awe of man or ghosts—or of death. He will enjoy the sunshine while bearing the darkest of days.
• He will be satisfied that the supernatural does not exist -- that behind every fact, every thought and dream is an efficient cause. He will regard those who violate the laws of nature and states as victims of conditions, of circumstances, and he will do what he can for the well-being of his fellow-men.
• He will not devote his life to the accumulation of wealth and it will give him no pleasure to excite the envy of his neighbors.
• He will find his greatest joy in the happiness of others and ... his greatest reward in being loved by those whose lives he has enriched.
• He will be independent and candid. He will embrace reason and science and use his sense and senses. He will keep an open mind and be a student, learner and listener. In the world of his brain there will be continuous summer, perpetual seed- time and harvest. Facts will be the foundation of his faith. In one hand he will carry the torch of truth, and with the other raise the fallen.
I favor all the ideas Ingersoll expressed in 1890 about improved man. However, I realize not everyone would have shared Ingersoll's view of improved man in 1890, any more than everyone would today.
Just the same, would not a speech like this invite a good discussion of ways to make improvements in ourselves and mankind? I believe Ingersoll's speech would inspire many to think creatively about personal integrity, ethics, morality and commitments. Surely exposure to ideas as expressed by Ingersoll would foster a creative dialogue about secular common values and human decencies.
In summary, I think improved man and woman would make a great topic for a worksite wellness program. What do you think?
All the best. Be well.
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