Last week my country was shocked by the news that a famous, passionate, 51 year old Dutch writer took his own life. I’ll skip the details of his research about suicide, and a recent television interview in which he stated that he was cured from his illness called depression. Apparently this illness can pop up when nobody expects. Joost Zwagerman is to be remembered as a productive author, a family man, a passionate art lecturer, and a welcome and loved guest in talk shows.

The morning after that evening’s bad news, I drove in my car to work and listened to a classical music channel. The host told about Joost not showing up, where he was expected to be in his radio program, the day before. So he was one of the first to know about the sad circumstances. The radio host also told about Joost visiting few weeks before, to share his musical top-10. Above that list stood the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. “Why do you regard this your number one music?” the host had asked him. And he answered: “Bach’s music is better than the world.”

“Better than the world? Wouldn’t that be someone or something like God?”, the host asked. And Joost said: “God only exists in people’s mind. And the people only exist in God’s mind. Imagine a place above that interaction. There’s the music of Bach. Better than the world.”

That same morning, starting the learning circle of our Appreciative Inquiry training program, I shared the considerations of the dead author. And thanks to Spotify I was able to play a piece of Bach music (the Goldberg Variations). Some of my students told that they hadn’t have any sleep because of the shocking news and their special relationship with the writers work. It seemed very relevant that, in facilitating our group to become inclusive – like we always do in AI sessions – we should include the writer as well.

The relevancy was obvious. Appreciative Inquiry is a strengthening approach, grounded in the conviction of everyone having a positive core. In fact, AI practitioners are capable of seeing that positive core, even before the people involved see it themselves. What we as AI students have to develop, is the ability to see people better than they seem to be; to see the world better than it is. Only if we see the world better than it is now, it will become a better world. Thank you Joost Zwagerman for pointing this out. (In fact he said “More beautiful than the world” and translations always are a challenge.)

Let us be more beautiful than the world we are in…