“No life emerges from diamonds, from manure comes flowers”
Fabrizio De André
A few days ago, during a web conference, I was asked to share my state of mind through the metaphor of weather forecasts.
My answer was: “clear sky, crystal clear air, lots of wind“.
As a mountain enthusiast (more of other people’s stories than for real merits, which are limited to some trekking and climbing mainly in the Dolomites) I know that there is an atmospheric phenomenon called “white out”, a fog of snow accompanied by a cold and strong wind. When you are in this situation, it is almost impossible to find the way unless you have a GPS. The risk is to think of moving forward when you are turning in a circle and finding yourself back at the starting point.
The historical event we are experiencing requires the strength to look for a clear sky, a crystal clear air, accepting the strong wind that destabilizes but also bring clarity for the current situation. Remaining at ground level, with fears, anxieties, anxiety and suffering, brings us into a white out situation, helpless in the face of the situation. The act of courage asks to go beyond the fear that blocks us and climb the mountains in front of us, observing from above the economic, social and cultural situation that the crisis has uncovered with great clarity. It is an act of will, and it is also an act of solidarity for those who today are unable to come out of the white out and find themselves moving in circles. Together we can equip ourselves with a GPS.
I have the real luck to be physically in the mountains right now, under a clear sky, breathing crystal clear air cleaned by a strong wind. What can I see from above? The search for a new Breath that moves in three directions: the need to rediscover the values of Brotherhood, Equality and Freedom, and the need for a real activation of all actors for a Gentle Revolution. These appear to me as coordinates for our GPS; those elements that the coronavirus, as well as the manure in De André’s quotation, is helping us to give birth to new flowers.
I am not a doctor, nor have I observed coronavirus disease closely. What they tell us, though, is that it affects the respiratory system, our breathing. You can not breathe. The disease brings us a problem that we often experience in our daily lives. The fact that we are unable to breathe because of all the commitments we have. In the last few months I often asked people “what is the issue that most troubles you at the moment?” and the answer was “time, I don’t have time to do anything, I’m always in a hurry”. Basically we experience the breathlessness individually. The same at the macro level: we cut down trees, we cut down the lungs of our Earth, and so also the Earth organism finds itself without the ability to breathe. CO2 emissions pollute our air and collective breathing. If in the individual disease this has a very fast effect (a feedback loop) that leads us to react quickly, in the collective disease the environmental crisis has a slow and widespread feedback loop, which is not activating us in the same way.
The first element I see from the mountain landscape is that as individuals and as a society we have the challenge to find a healthy individual and collective breath. This challenge needs to meet a new concrete image of the future. A first inspiration to think about a new future is given by three peaks that I am observing from my room, three peaks to rediscover and protect. The peaks of Brotherhood, of Equality, of Freedom.
Image 1: 3 Directions
Brotherhood is a summit surrounded by vegetation, trees embracing each other almost to the summit, edelweisses sprouting in green pastures and crystal clear mountain lakes. A set of colours, organisms and diversity that together produce beauty. I look out the window, from where I am writing, I see the Cime d’Auta, with the forest up to the slopes, the Dolomite rock, still some splashes of snow. And I know that behind the Negher fork, which leads to the opposite side I am contemplating, there are green fields, edelweiss, a small lake, chamois. A magnificent union of diversity.Brotherhood is a summit that contemplates the sphere of the economy. We need to rediscover the profound meaning of economy, which concerns the production of goods and services for others
Good economy is what keeps us united and interdependent; it is the space in which we need each other.
To reach the summit of brotherhood, we need to find the path of a real economy. We must remove ourselves from the path of greed, which leads to deep crevices and abysses. We see systemic greed in the way the economy is organized but also individual greed in our consumerism: we eat and buy more than what is really necessary, we think about our personal and selfish interests and not about collective and ecosystemic interests. To move along this path, we need to be united, not to move alone. It is a real group that we need.
This group has the name of companies and conscious consumers. We need to give even more strength to recent movements in which companies are asked to reconsider themselves as an expression of the social context to which they belong, and not as beings isolated from the rest. Let us avoid making the business world an unwitting cancer for humanity:
“We have reached a stage where we often pursue growth for growth’s sake, a condition that in medical terminology would simply be called cancer.”
A healthy company needs to experience a generative and not simply extractive purpose, a real and empathic attention to all stakeholders inside and outside the company. Only in this way can it become the first true organism in which to initiate the profound transformation we need. It starts from here: people live most of the time in companies and their vision of the world, of trust and fear, is deeply influenced by what they live during the 8-10 hours a day in the work context.
The advantage of the capitalist system is that the paradigm shift by few people at the top would be enough to enable healthy and social contexts. A modern, sustainable capitalism, oriented towards qualitative and not quantitative growth, with values based on brotherhood and not on greed.
If on the one hand we can experiment new ways of doing business with a reinvention from the top, on the other hand we have the immense power of the Conscious Consumer. The first activator of change in the economy is the consumer. The power to transform offer lies in demand. We underestimate the impact of individual actions. But if as consumers we learn the art of awareness, we could make an invaluable contribution to a profound transformation of the economy.
Equality, rather than a summit, resembles a gentle, not overly impervious path, in which progress is possible and accessible. It reminds me of Costabella, the Bepi Zac via ferrata and the ski slopes of Passo San Pellegrino. We were three generations on that ridge last summer:, my son for the first time on a via ferrata, my father and myself. A route accessible to everyone and that can become more impervious for the most daring if you want to try a climb to Cima Uomo. A route that runs through an open-air museum of trenches and makeshift camp of the First World War, where you can breathe the struggle for human rights and the human madness when these rights are trampled on.
Equality is a summit that encompasses politics and the conscious citizen. We need to rediscover a way of doing politics that focus on guaranteeing equanimity through the creation of laws aimed at regulating relations between people within society, guaranteeing the fundamental principle that “the law is equal for all”.
Here we are in full white out. Explorers lost on the path of greed have thus found themselves on the path of inequality. We build laws distant from the equality, ad personam laws to protect status quo and greed. The inequalities increase, and at the end of this path there is the great distance between the rich and the poor. Today a small handful of human beings, 8 billionaires, owns half of the world’s wealth (https://tinyurl.com/qtcsu5s).
Today we live the desolation and anguish of the losses of our loved ones. It is a profound feeling, which activates us all, which moves us towards solidarity and mutual support. However, at the same time, we see millions of deaths from poverty and hunger in other parts of the world abandoned to themselves. And we know that with the act of will we could solve this scourge very well. Let us also connect to the suffering of those we do not see close to us.
This crisis shows us the profound difference between information and experience. For years we have been bombarded with information in the newspapers about death and inequality. But we read them at the same level of emotion with which we read gossip news.
The path we have to find to reach the summit of equality is to give time to digesting information, to decide the what information we want to follow, to become conscious citizens. Choose what we want to deepen, do not become victims of what we are bombarded from. Do not become victims of fake news and populism, but let become self-educated and make the best use of the tools available to inform ourselves in a conscious way. Only in this way we can give time for information to reach the level of the heart, to warm it up so that we awaken the will to act the new. We are faced with a great challenge, a difficult path: to be able to perceive and empathize with realities far from our own, in order to demand equality. Do not fall into the banality of evil given by distance:
“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”
The political class must renew itself: courageously abandon the intruders who have arrived from the path of greed, find companions prepared and able to look to the common good and not to their personal interest. A cultured political class that knows how to dialogue and grasp perspectives, instead of pursuing the rhetoric of the vote and constant antagonism. This depends on us. Not on the politicians. Politicians reflect our society. It is up to us to start electing people who demonstrate the ability to leave ego aside in favour of the “eco”, to know how to dialogue, and to be able to look at the real challenges of systemic equality.
The mountaineering world is often associated with freedom and non-conformism. The spiritual search for contact with the silent and solitary mountain peaks. The movements born in the shadow of the mountains. Movements that even anticipated the desire for freedom of the 60s and 70s. From Yosemite Valley to the Dolomites. Freedom is a summit with an almost mystical aspect, a summit that contains stories of great deeds, almost always hidden by halos of mystery and great sacrifices. The mountain I hold most in my heart appears to me, the Civetta: the majestic north face and the ventures connected, the Torrani refuge at 3000 meters just below the summit. The sense of freedom when last summer my father and I reached the summit where we enjoyed the sunrise that illuminated everything around. A light that has existed since the dawn of time, and always show up to illuminate the extraordinary landscape and the majestic Civetta, with all its mystery.
Freedom is a summit that contemplates the realm of culture and the free human being. Freedom of thought and the possibility to self-expression. No censorship from dominant thought. The freedom of teachers, artists, writers, journalists. The individual freedom to express opinions.
The acceptance of oneself and others is the path we have to find. What would happen if we were all equal in thought?
Before the current crisis, we were so ready to push away diversity. To push immigrants back to their countries. Even if for a very brief moment, we lived the same situation: “Italians, away from Europe!” “Stay at home!”. For a brief moment we experienced just a small taste of what others experience every day. The rejection of diversity. The feeling of not being accepted. The help not received.
Again, some explorers on the path of greed, joining together with explorers on the path of inequality, have gone even further and taken the path of homogenisation. This virus, yes this is a true and deep virus, has reached the slopes of freedom. Even greater, then, is the effort to break away, to find new energy and to seek a path that really leads to the summit of freedom. It is the path of courage, in its meaning of “cor habeo,” “to act heart”. It is about climbing and protecting the most impervious peak, the peak of freedom.
The path here has its own dimension: working on ourselves, accepting and meditating, reconnecting to the deep self. To be wholeheartedly our authentic self. And then accepting others and help them to finding themself. It is a mystical summit, which unites the encounter with one’s inner self with external solutions. To take the breath again means in this case to stop, to reflect, and to act with courage to oppose censorship and restrictions of freedom.
The extraordinary Charlie Chaplin act in the “The Great Dictator” resonate with us to find meaning, warm our hearts, awaken our will and unite for a gentle, people-centered revolution. Here is the link to the interpretation: https://tinyurl.com/rh96v8s
A Direction for the Future
So our GPS is directing us. An ideal image. Reaching the peaks is however a long run. What really matters is to start the journey, letting go of the current situation. Seeds for the future.
In Tab 1 I have summarized the coordinates of our GPS and the necessary qualities for our explorers’ backpack.
Moving from the current image to the inspirational one is a daily journey. We can not reach any destination without a journey. We have to find new paths, sometimes more linear and simple, sometimes more bumpy; sometimes we have to go back in order to move forward. Sometimes we will feel closer to the point of departure, sometimes closer to the arrival. What is important is to keep in front of us the coordinates of our GPS while being aware and present every single step.
Tab 1: A summary of the 3 directions
In this journey we experience the real ability to make an impact. On the one hand, therefore, the reality we live in, on the other the direction we are aiming at. In the middle we find the daily exercise of bringing our impulse into a new emerging reality.
“The reality that I meet is my teacher, the more I can read this reality the more it speaks to me and I can respond.
The more I live out of my impulse and keep my focus, the more I can express myself in this reality: what I am busy about, my passion, what I want to bring into the world.
If you can stand in between these two (not only responding, not only bringing in myself) then you experience that you can really connect to other persons in the free space within.”
In the free space within of meeting ourselves and others, we see the gentleness of our revolution.
Image 2: Space Transformation
The journey: a gentle revolution
Now we could ask ourselves, “what possibilities do I have to be part of a gentle revolution?” “how can I contribute?”
The current crisis once again teaches us a profound truth: the individual actions have an impact on the system much more than we imagine. One of the greatest lessons from this crisis is precisely the speed with which we observe the effect of our behaviour on the system. If we do not respect the temporary physical distancing, we will increase the spread of the virus. Our individual behaviour has a visible, immediate effect on the system.
The same applies to every other issue we face on this journey. The only problem is the distance with which we can observe the effects of our actions: the effect is the same, only the awareness is less. Our role is to find confidence that what I will do will have an effect: if I inspire my employer to imagine a new way of doing business, if I give my vote to educated and wise politicians, if I dedicate time to myself and my personal connection, if I will be the leading example in exploring the paths that lead to the highest peaks of humanity, then I will have already started the change we want to see in the world. Without “overdoing it”, but simply “doing it”. Without preaching, but by acting with kindness.
Working on ourselves is our path to become conscious consumers, conscious citizens and free human beings.
Meeting together on this path is a fantastic accelerator to discover that we are not alone in what we feel inwardly and that we can truly transform the world. In the past few days I have come across this beautiful phrase of an Italian poet I did not know, who died last month for covid-19. His phrase seems to me an exceptional hymn of hope:
“What if one day when we wake up we realize we are the majority? I say that imaginative cells will dominate and bring out the butterfly from a worm-like world.”.
Let us meet, recognize, talk and help each other:
“I can’t think of a single time that an individual or an organization has created a brand-new worldview, spread it and then led that tribe.
There were Harley-type renegades before there was Harley Davidson. There were digital nomads before there was Apple. There were pop music fans before there were the Beatles and Rastafarians before Marley.
Without a doubt, a new technology creates new experiences. But the early adopters who gravitate to it were early adopters before we got there.
Our job is to find the disconnected and connect them, to find people eager to pursue a goal and give them the structure to go achieve that goal. But just about always, we start with an already existing worldview, a point of view, a hunger that’s waiting to be satisfied.”
We are people-type, we see human being and his wholeness as sourdough for the future. We are Peoplerisers.
I thank my colleagues from Peoplerise; Maria Rita Fiasco; Stefano Marcato for their contribution.