Tag Archives: compassion

The Space Between

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Viktor Frankl

COVID-19 lockdown day four here in Aotearoa/New Zealand.  Time at home to really consider the space between stimulus and response.

I wanted to share with you some of what I’ve been reading and watching. Trying to make sense of all of this – where is our opportunity to grow.

However, I should say first that not all of us are in a position to reflect on this current situation in the way that I am able to.  Self-care and self-compassion will look different for each of us at the moment.  Some of us out there will be dealing first hand with the tragedy that is this pandemic.

So, it is to those of us who are simply doing our bit by staying home, physical distancing and encouraging being together apart, that I address these reflections to.  And reflecting is important right now as Nature has given us this space between.

I really appreciate what Niki Harré says about reflecting in her book The Infinite Game: how to live well together.

“Reflecting is not a lazy way to avoid moving forward; it is a crucial part of untangling ourselves from the dominant cultural patterns that are so easy to replicate when we ‘just do it’. Reflecting takes skill”

Niki Harré

Let’s start with what seems to be the unravelling picture of the causes of the unprecedented time we now find ourselves in.

Bill Gates’ TED talk 2015 – this is a link to Bill Gates’ eerily accurate prediction about epidemics and what we would need to prepare.  His suggestions mostly focus on building capacity for epidemiologists, innovation, health ministry preparedness and government collaboration.  Much of this seems to have fallen on deaf ears and the work hasn’t been done.

Bill Gates’ TED Connects March 2020How we must respond to the coronavirus pandemic.  In this 50 minute conversation with Bill Gates a lot of ground is covered with regard to testing, therapeutics, vaccines and other logistics around managing the pandemic.

What I love is his pragmatic optimism, his belief in humanity and his unswerving belief in our creativity in terms of science and innovation.  But I do wonder, if we are not in that particular creative sphere, on that sort of scientific front line, where do our responsibilities lie?  As just average global citizens, what difference can we make, if any?

The next piece of the puzzle for me is why would a pandemic of this nature be an inevitability as Gates suggested in 2015?  Well, from my research it seems we have brought this on ourselves – the sheer numbers that make up the human population, the amount and the way we consume, the biodiversity loss and ecosystem service disruption we have caused, the accelerated climate change we have induced.

Here are some links worth reading/watching:

John Scanlon, African Parks Network has written an eloquent article on wildlife crime and the link between wet markets and disease spread.

A short video titled How wildlife trade is linked to coronavirusPlease note this is from early March so the statistics quoted are out of date.

This from the World Health Organisation.

And this from the Wildlife Conservation Society.  Now including a policy document.

If ever there was a time when Mother Nature herself was speaking up and giving credence to what scientists, researchers and conservationists have been saying for years, it is now.

But what can we do?  What hope is there?  Are there individual actions we can each take that will make a difference?

Yes, I believe so!  What follows are a few ideas that range from the deep and reflective to the more light-hearted, surviving lockdown ones.  All ways to consider the space between.

At times like these it is useful to pause and consider our values.  Values are our guiding forces.  They are quite individual to each of us, although will be influenced by our culture and upbringing.  My values are very much based on the environment and how I see my relationship with other living things and the planet in general.  Many people have values based on how they value their social relationships and still others may focus on themselves and their individual well-being.  Or a combination of these values.  None are right or wrong. But what I think is interesting is that no matter where your core values lie, we can no longer deny the need for change as the human species – behaviours and actions.  Setting a new norm that will impact on individual health and wellbeing, the good of humanity and future generations, as well as the planet we are so intimately connected to, is imperative.

If you want to read more about values and how values influence our decision-making, I highly recommend checking out the Barratt Academy for the Advancement of Human Values.  There is also a really useful values assessment tool on this website.

That was the deep stuff.  On to something more practical.  If we are mindful of how we are living on the planet and the impact we are having, we can take practical steps to mitigate and reduce negative impact.  For a super interesting read on a scale of solution focused ideas to address climate change, check out Drawdown.  I think there is something for everyone here, no matter your circumstance or where you find yourself in the world.  I found this information incredibly empowering!

Then, I really think we should be thinking about what we eat and how it is produced.  Regenerative agriculture makes the Drawdown list at number 11.  Here is a one farmer’s perspective – Angus McIntosh talks about the case for regenerative agriculture.  As I mentioned above, living mindfully is key and knowledge is power.  Food for thought 😉

I have another quote from Niki Harré’s Infinite Game that I think fits here:

But the idea kept popping into my head that life is based on radical cooperation. Cooperation fitted because the actions of each life form supported the growth of other forms; and it was radical because these actions were at the root of both individual survival and the functioning of the entire ecosystem.

Niki Harré

And what about surviving right now?

How about a coping calendar from Action for Happiness

Or travel virtually… my friend Carla from the Blue Sky Society Trust is currently taking us on an epic African Safari experience… get involved!

As for me…. Painting calms me down… here’s some new ones…

And that about wraps up a very long post.  I will be back in April hoping to post most days with photos and short stories from my travels over the years.  Join me for some virtual wanderings.

Take heart, dear ones.  All will be well.  Our collective courage, compassion and kindness in this space between will make it so.

Leaving you with a couple more quotes from the hugely inspiring Infinite Game which seem written for a time such as now….  Thank you, Niki Harré, for sharing your wisdom 💙

“This is what being an infinite player or a community that cares about our lives together means. Getting up each day, remembering what matters, and trying like hell to live that in the confusion of real life. It does not mean knowing what is right. Sometimes it might just mean rejecting that which is clearly wrong (as far as you can tell). And, I humbly suggest, this process may be aided by imagining life as an infinite game. Not because it is, exactly, but because imagining it so might help to focus us on what truly matters.”

“Love is at the heart of the infinite values. Radical cooperation is a way of translating this into the mind-set of an infinite player. It involves trying your best to let go of the belief, trained into us by our society’s emphasis on self-promotion and self-acquisition, that security lies in what you have cordoned off for you and your descendants. Insofar as security exists at all, it is better understood as lying in how well we cooperate with each other and the natural world in which we are embedded.”

Ubuntu

A Zulu proverb referencing our humanity and connection to others

I have always loved this word – Ubuntu – the philosophy and the worldview behind it.

Here is a little reflection one month out from my upcoming African adventure.

I am not sure of a lot of things but one thing I am definitely sure of is that we are all connected. We impact each other every day for good or ill.

What I find particularly profound about Ubuntu is there is still room for individuality within this human story. To me this means that my actions count. Who I am and what I do makes a difference and is significant in the greater scheme of things. How empowering! This gives me hope in the face of all the tragedy and heart ache I see every day.

Taking this idea one step further I like to think of “we” as all the other living beings we share the planet with. I believe we are connected also. And while some groups of humans have not figured this out yet, I can be a voice for the voiceless. That tends to be what gets me out of bed in the morning, heading to work to teach conservation education to the next generation. A very urbanised, disconnected next generation.

And so I have been led to connect with people like Carla Geyser, founder of the Blue Sky Society Trust and organiser of the Journey with Purpose expedition I am embarking on in a month’s time. Here is woman who by her actions and what she has chosen to do believes in the power of Ubuntu. Definitely a kindred spirit!

Due to the ongoing effects of Cyclone Idai in Mozambique, our itinerary has had to change. We will head further south. The original collaring project in Gile National Reserve will hopefully go ahead later in the year.

I also follow Dr Michelle Henley on social media through the work she does with Elephants Alive. Here is another individual dedicated to wildlife conservation but not leaving humanity out of the picture.

Obviously much of the focus in my news feed will be about my beloved corner of Mama Africa and the amazing individuals dedicating their lives to helping wildlife as well as communities of humans in this part of the world.

But I also work with passionate conservationists everyday. Check out this link to an amazing wildlife experience in Sumatra. The incredible woman who put this together is also a wife, mom, team leader, field conservationist and all round inspirational human being!

And I could go on and on with examples of humans who work everyday on the assumption of Ubuntu… our individual actions bringing us together, uniting us in our efforts to make the world a better place.

What I love about this is that conservation of wildlife and wild places can no longer be seen to separate humanity from the picture. We have to take this journey together, learn to live in harmony not just with each other but with all the species we share the planet with. It is a huge responsibility and we cannot see the kindness and compassion it takes as a weakness.

I will finish off with a mention that the fundraising efforts continue, even though the itinerary has changed. And again, I do know that we are all saturated with requests for money for a million different good causes… but maybe this one speaks to you? A bit of Ubuntu