A few weeks ago, I reflected on a millennium of change in York. Last week, I travelled to the beautiful Andalusian city of Granada and found myself looking for clues to the preoccupations of our troubled world in the history that is embedded here. Granada is the site of the Alhambra; a reminder that multi-cultural Europe is nothing new (think also the Balkan countries) and that the tensions this introduces to society are not new either.
Andalusia was ruled for 8 centuries by Muslim sultans with roots in North Africa. The Christian kings of Spain, of course, were determined to expel the Muslim occupiers. Granada, the last stronghold, was finally surrendered to the Spanish king in 1492. At that time it was a prosperous city with important communities representing each of the Abrahamic religions. Today Granada is an exotic cocktail of Christian and Muslim heritage surrounded by olive groves, scorched mountains, and sharing its climate with Morocco. The handsome citizens sport features that perhaps point to marriages across the faith divide all those centuries ago.
The palaces of the Alhambra are largely intact and testament to the peace and tranquility which is at the heart of true Islam. Beautifully carved marble, gentle fountains, pomegranates and roses combine to transport the visitor into a world dedicated to the celebration of God and the beauty of creation even while the world outside lays siege.
The Koranic text that is exquisitely carved everywhere translates variously but most often as “There is no victor but God”; surely a reminder that our predilection for war is ultimately and always futile. Our tendency to turn suspicion and ignorance of other cultures into hate is blinding us to the opportunity for a more gentle, meditative world.
And the lesson for the Change Manager? Maybe that change washes over everything but beauty will not be easily swept away. The good in anything can be the backbone of the new and the inspiration for progress.
Change is good.