Have you noticed how much the word “unprecedented” is bandied around every day by the media? It is as if the current crisis came completely out of the blue! Certainly the Covid-19 pandemic has been preceded by a complex interwoven set of events. It is important to examine these. There are inner and outer aspects. The outer precede-ents concern how we relate to the living world. The inner concerns are about the level of care in the way that we treat ourselves and others. The Co-video 19 series addresses such inner concerns.
How deeply this crisis strikes at our deepest innate human, caring instincts! Especially frustrated are the caring impulses to reach out a hand to comfort and care for another human being. Despite the HD digitised images and voices of our loved ones and friends on Zoom or Skype there remains a deep ache of longing for the living presence of another.
Preparing this Co-video 19 series has forced me to consider deeply how to be true to myself but most of all to the people who have had lessons for over 30 years. What this preparation has brought to the fore is stillness. In the teaching room in Bashful Alley there is a sycamore tree. It looks so at home there that often people fail to even notice it. It was more than 30 years ago that Gordon Nixon and I dragged that tree trunk from out of the River Lune. We hauled it over fields, eventuall dragging it through the window at Bashful Alley Centre. Around its trunk we carved the words: “The stillpoint of the turning world”.- a quote from TS Eliot.
Preceding this epidemic we rushed around in a state of distraction. Yet although in shoulder-rubbing distance from one another, strangely, we often were in a state of social isolation! I am sure I am not on my own when I say that my loneliest experiences were in a crowd!
I am wondering if that state of distraction is a factor that we should now cooly consider?
Certainly there were plenty of individuals in the preceding decades trying desperately to be heard and prophesying the inevitability of what has now happened. It seems that our collective attention was so driven and distracted by other goals that we failed to attend to the portents. We may have to reconsider and rethink what we attend to and what we do not attend to – especially after the crisis is over.
We are alerted and awakened by a threat that is real, one that has challenged so many assumptions, like for example the possibility of unlimited unrestrained economic growth. The fact of the matter is that Covid-19 has stamped on our reins. We have been jerked to a standstill. In lockdown we have had to slow down, stay at home, keep yourself to yourself. Somehow, and it is not paradoxical, this has generated a deep authentic sense of human communality.
But for now here we all are: most of us holed-up in our own front rooms anxious just to stay well and if possible, to avoid the virus. The relatively unexplored dimension here, the elephant if you like, in our own front rooms, concerns the wondrous workings of your immune system. Not only are there disease-worries and financial anxiety there are also concerns about not being active enough. It is a Molotov combination- an anxiety cocktail with the potential to lower and compromise your immune system.
In an older-fashioned language we talk about keeping your spirits up! A sense of communality is a for sure a part of that. What I have been brought to by these preparations, and what small contribution I might make concerns the importance of a type of focused attention that moves us towards the still-point of the turning world. And that is what these videos hope to support. It is a Big Call. Disciplining human attention so that it can move towards the still-point seems to me primarily to involve a War against Distraction. But we live in the Age of Distraction! It is this state of complex interconnectedness and non-separation that is really appreciated at the still point. It is certainly becoming clear to me that the closer one comes to the stillness at the centre of the turning world the less socially distant and socially isolated we become. If we come to that realisation as a result of being holed-up and unable to interact with others within a touching distance then that certainly is one huge paradox! There is a golden opportunity to realise the full impact of another prevalent and much used contemporary phrase besides: “unprecedented”:
“We are all in this together”!