Here’s to the bean counters: the power of the Scribe

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This comes on the heels of a similarly themed article that I published in June  called “Does productivity = happiness?” which deals with the same topic.   Statistician (a Scribe in Archetypal terms) Nic Marks asks why we measure a nation’s success by its productivity — instead of by the happiness and well-being of its people. He introduces the Happy Planet Index, which tracks national well-being against resource use (because a happy life doesn’t have to cost the earth). Which countries rank highest in the HPI? You might be surprised.  Here’s his fascinating TED Talk:


I find real world examples of the Visionary, Scribe, Detective and the Advocate in this presentation.  The Scribe archetype in particular tends not to get a lot of attention.  Clients rarely pick this archetype the first time around. Maybe it’s the name “Scribe”, it just doesn’t have the pizazz that “Alchemist” or “Visionary” do.  Anyway, I’d like to use this presentation by a Statistician aka a modern Scribe, to illustrate the power of this archetype.  Where would we be if there weren’t Scribes to keep track of our history, our finances and even to use statistics to help enlighten and help us solve real-world issues like happiness and climate change?

The Scribe Archetype – description and history
Variations on this archetype are: Journalist, Documentarian, Accountant, Secretary, Record Keeper and Genealogist.
The Scribe differs from Author or Artist in one significant way: scribes copy or use existing works rather than create new ones. The Hebrew scribes were originally secretaries who wrote down the preachings of the prophets, but evolved into a priestly class charged with writing and maintaining the laws and records, copying previous scrolls, and committing oral traditions to paper. Medieval Christian scribes copied manuscripts and helped preserve learning. In India, the sages who compiled the Vedas are known as vyasa, a Sanskrit word that means “collector” but could be translated as “scribe.” We can expand the definition to cover modern journalists, who also record the existing knowledge and information of their day and uncover secrets (investigative reporters). And we would also have to include that largely anonymous horde of copiers who are busy uploading everything imaginable onto the Internet in the hope of preserving it by distributing it to millions. What makes the Internet the modern equivalent of the medieval scriptorum is that so much information is transcribed onto it not for personal gain but for the sheer joy of preserving and sharing these artifacts with the rest of the world.

The shadow aspect of the Scribe can manifest in altering facts, plagiarizing, or selling information that belongs to others. You could even say that a crooked Accountant is a shadow Scribe or a photo-journalist that sets up images to portray a biased opinion.

Films: Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford in All the President’s Men; Sally Field in Absence of Malice (shadow); Kirk Douglas in Ace in the Hole (shadow); Nicole Kidman in To Die For (shadow); Holly Hunter in Broadcast News.
Fiction: Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville
Religion/Myth: Ezra (Hebrew scribe and priest, best known for collecting and editing the books of the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, in the fifth century B.C.); Imhotep (in Egyptian myth, an architect, physician, and scribe in the court of the Pharaoh Zoser); Thoth (Egyptian god of wisdom, inventor of writing, and patron of scribes, often depicted as a man with the head of an ibis, holding a scribal tablet and reed pen).

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