Gliding on Books, Boards, and the Coronavirus Emergency Crisis.
Days are prone to “act without acting”, or to “glide without gliding” on the virus, the same way we would glide on a board or a book. President Macron suggested three days ago, to use this time to read, if I remember well. As restrictions to prevent the Coronavirus from spreading are now also extended to water sports, I am taking his advice. Mr. Macron, should you have specific readings to recommend, I am listening.
What quest is the book you are reading, responding to? Meaning or inspiration for yourself, engaging or leading others? In all cases, one needs first to make silence inside. Then, it is often not about reading but about understanding and interpreting what the writer wants to tell, observe how it resonates through own limitations and reply accordingly, first to oneself in a structured manner, not to get lost in thought. It is not so easy. It requires to pay attention first to oneself, and to consider how deep one is able to critically look at a text, an idea, a vision, and observe within oneself. When construction of oneself is appreciated with understanding, consideration and acceptance, and words outspoken, the process for change is engaged and relationship, connection with others takes place in a non-judging and free space, opening paths.
Emergency Crisis. From my almost 11 years as a humanitarian worker, I'd like to share this image. It was some years ago, 40°C under a tent. The new-born baby of a family of 7 was softly "deposited” like a feather in my arms by his refugee parents. It was frail, I thought I was going to break him. I literally thought he was going to die in my arms. His 4 brothers and sisters were healthy, playing and running around, touching my hair and nose. The baby's parents were regularly receiving the powdered milk donations for him, but the new-born was stuck between the red and the orange zone, and not making it to the green. There was no medical reason, why the baby never passed the threshold.
I did not say a word. The cry was silent. I felt inhuman, judging and separated from self. “Thanks to poverty, I had a job”. No matter what soft excuse I found myself, the poison was the product of humanity’s cruelty – and the result was in my hands. The family should have been getting the milk, without sacrificing the child. But at the same time, I was covering it.
This appeared consciently like a huge black spot on every single plane of the multi-layered whiteboard: The child's family, the beneficiary group, the entire camp, private companies, NGOs, civil society, churches, the region, the programme, the local government, left and right, the institutions, the countries, the system... and myself, as part of the whole picture. But no matter how large and wide I thought and mentally navigated on each of the planes, the injustice, the black spot was growing disproportionally. My brain refused, in that context, to override the effects of long-term undernutrition on a new-born, while we were supposed to provide against exactly this, and I could not solve what I saw as a problem. I did not see the sense.
And as I finally tried to stabilize that little body in my arms, I carefully caressed his soft and bony belly and smiled to him, in response to his eye-contact. And without warning, in a blink of an eye, the baby gave me the most beautiful, warmest, touching, loving smile and feeling of acceptance. Joy. I will never forget. I realized it was not just a body, it was alive and it was able of connection, of emotion, of relationship. It is extremely powerful to see how life can emerge in darkness, from a look out of pure innocence. This was a blinding lightning, and lasted long enough just to enlighten one essential. Connection, relationship. Joy. His smile was telling me, that he did not see in me, the sacrificial destiny that his family had made of him. It‘s ephemeral beauty enabled a sort of liberation. It was acting without acting. I was expecting justice, but what I found was relationship, connexion, through eye contact.
But I thought, the beauty of that moment was not enough. There was a structural "problem", this sacrifice should have been forbidden. There was too much missmatch between the walk and the talk. And anger kept growing, separating myself, from my own self, with many words unspoken. Whose conscience was I trying to "buy back" by being put in that situation? Was it my own?
We stayed a few minutes, quickly drank a cup of hot tea with 5 sugars, thanked the family and left. Quickly gliding away from the threat of the heart, as we hide today from the threat of a virus. What would this child become, what kind of opportunity, connection would he find on his way of constructing himself? Certainly he would have some. I am certain his parents loved him but I though what they were doing for him was not enough. I was judging myself and others, at the cost of connection.
"The reality doesn't need you". In this time of emergency crisis like the one of the Coronavirus, "we are needed" and explicitly asked – to act without acting, to stay and work from home. As much as I appreciate poetry, this phrase of Fernando Pessoa: "The reality doesn't need you", shocks. The dynamic of the phrase is shaped around his concern about wholeness. I don't think he meant to encourage ourselves to hide reality, our own reality – but to have courage to unveil and see how things are, how I am. This thought can be understood in a sense of identifying and recognizing what we want to do about the reality and in our search for wholeness. Posing the question in a way that problems can be transcended. Is a united - whole self ever possible? I want to think so.
Birds never collide and are whole with one another, they are masters in avoiding obstacles, without "cutting" themselves. They manage to live in peace in the kingdom of the skies. Can we ever expect to be united in peace with others if the "war" we created ourselves, for ourselves and inside of ourselves first – never stops? Are those who make war, not the same as those who promote peace, and is it not all of us? Can we still find ways to accept ourselves entirely? Maybe by letting speak the most naïve part of oneself, the one look an innocent child would have and there is beauty in this, and this is what can make a difference.
If in nature, the golden ratio speaks about the value of 1,618, it is not a whole number, it is a number in the process of growth. It is not one or two, not black or white, good or bad, but it is the perfect number. Asking someone to be perfect invites to more growth, to accept to get closer to oneself, and to find humility and respect in the way we approach others, those who are different from ourselves - and not to have a spotless pane. Pretending to already be perfect is refusing the possibility to grow. Can the process of dividing and structuring thought, help understand the root of the limitations, to help correct it or accept it, instead of rejecting or ignoring and pretending it does not affect us, putting the blame on someone else? Maybe as human beings, there is a need to create space for that?
In the private sector, in the sense of all private persons and not necessarily companies – not have until now, found it always possible, to take responsibility for their community, sometimes not even for their families. This brings me to a very earthly question, especially now in the context of the "threat" of the Coronavirus: Why do nations rise? Three possibilities. When taxes are paid by all - by none, by others and by some. When those who govern are wise. When community prevails against individuals. All on the same boat. Divide any number, any thought, any person by infinity and you will get closer to a zero. Separate oneself from self and you will get zero.
"What bends remains whole". From emptiness of meaning can come words. From emptiness of words can come the fullness of meaning. Nothing comes from nothing – but it is emptiness that enables everything. Our own words, words of others, the logos is always our own. There is beauty in education.
Progress of instruction has however, turned things around and as a consequence, has led many to live farther from simplicity and nature. Lao Tseu wrote: "The Ancients, who practiced wisdom did not use it to enlighten people, but to leave it in ignorance. A nation is not governable when it has too much knowledge." It sounds terrible to write such a thing. He also said: "The farther you go, the less you know. The more knowledge you seek, the less you understand." There are many paths in travelling inside oneself, and light can be found in any dark situation, as we find again the smile of our own child. And it is a good time for this, as most of us have travel restrictions.
Some who came after and even some who came before Lao Tseu, embraced the duality, the opposition, the contradictions, the different faces of a same thing. This is why some said after him, to not judge ourselves in the first place. This does not mean to not take responsibility, but to listen to ourselves and welcome our own transformational processes.
Is this not simply, an invitation to embrace our wholeness, accepting our own construction, de-construction, re-construction, with compassion, and welcome the other in a relationship, with patience as he is on the path of his own processes and dynamic?
The reality does seems to need us. We are all on the same boat, but we have a different boards and books we are gliding on. Times are interesting, many seem surprised, panicked. I sometimes catch my mouth talking about the virus. I watch excitement in all directions on social networks, like crazy winds. Activities in the physical world are not proven to be decreasing but are reshaping. In silence, the master, the virus – is facing an obedient student – both in respect of each other. We are asked to practice the art of acting without acting: Everyone – stay still. Silence.