AL DUOMO, FIRENZE — I know how I feel about graffiti on historic monuments. I don’t like it. There is no value in defacing ancient monuments, like Lord Byron famously did at The Temple of Poseidon in Greece.
But as I stumbled, puffin down the 463 steps from the top of the cathedral in Florence this afternoon, I saw a big black pen scrawling saying something like “Do something exceptional by treating people well and you will be rewarded with grace.” It was well positioned and written in a striking hand. And it was noticeably different from the other graffiti on this historic site.
It was the only religious message I actually got in visiting churches all day.
I am quite ashamed to say that. Because even in the Uffizi Gallery the only real message I left with was that there were a lot of wealthy Americans who contributed to it. And that gallery has some of the most striking art I have seen in my life. (Even through a bus-load of hopped-up French school children.)
What I appreciate about the religious graffiti in the Duomo was that it was unexpected. It was different. It was delivered in a new way. Even though the message was not new, or the location all that unexpected.
It broke the rules. And that broke through all the other noise.
We, as organisational communicators often have to do that. We risk our jobs by doing it sometimes. And we risk breaking down our entire system if we do it a lot. But it’s often worth the effort. It’s often the only thing we can do to shake up the world. To break people out of their complacency.
Just don’t get caught.