I lost a recent Sunday, professionally speaking. Friday and
Saturday had brought a foot and a half of snow to my southern
Vermont farm. Then Sunday dawned cloudless, with the temperature
well below zero.
The day had been planned to a T. To prepare for a speech the
next week, I'd pore over hundreds of pages of material on
telecommunications. But when I went to get the newspaper (a
15-mile drive), I realized it was one of the most beautiful days
I'd ever seen. Maybe, I mused, never to be matched again.
What a spectacle! Each window in the house offered a magical
crystalline pattern of frost. A stiff breeze generated
kaleidoscopic whorls on the white-blanketed fields.
So I seized the day, and enjoyed it for all it was worth. I
stared. I sniffed. I listened. I absorbed.
But it turns out I did some work anyway. The experience of
fully inhaling a day got me thinking about quality. It also led
me to pull out my dogeared copy of Kakuzo Okakura's "The Book of
Tea." Thumbing through it, I came upon a satisfactory answer to a
question I've long pondered:
Just what is quality?
The serious study of tea service, or chado, is a lifetime
occupation in Japan, calling for great discipline and total
concentration. A million details must be mastered. But there is
Consider the cleanliness of the tea room and its surroundings.
"One of the first requisites of a tea master," wrote Okakura, "is
the knowledge of how to sweep, clean and wash." He offers the
example of the ancient tea master, Rikyu, teaching his son how to
prepare the garden path at the entranceway to the tearoom:
" `Not clean enough,' said Rikyu, when Sho-an had finished his
task, and bade him try again. After a weary hour the son turned
to Rikyu: `Father, there is nothing more to be done. The steps
have been washed for the third time ... not a twig, not a leaf
have I left on the ground.' `Young fool,' chided the tea master,
`that is not the way a garden path should be swept.' Saying this,
Rikyu stepped into the garden, shook a tree and scattered over
the garden gold and crimson leaves, scraps of the brocade of
What Rikyu demanded, Okakura concluded, "was not cleanliness
alone, but the beautiful and the natural also."
That makes sense to me, if you're Siemens AG providing
telephone equipment or Rosenbluth International offering travel
In fact, Rosenbluth CEO Hal Rosenbluth would be the first to
agree with Okakura. …