Non-Being in the Pandemic

Individuals and organisations are hunkering down to brave this pandemic. Those on the margins of a secure life are clinging on for sheer survival. This is not an easy time to live in.

Are we making it more difficult for ourselves? Why is it that we are sheltering in our homes, but feel locked out of Life – its vitality and energy?

A sliver of wisdom from Tao te Ching entered my awareness to engage with these questions.

We join spokes together in a wheel,

but it is the center hole that makes the wagon move.

We shape clay into a pot,

but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.

We hammer wood for a house,

but it is the inner space 

that makes it livable.

We work with being, 

but non-being is what we use.

The pandemic has forced the world into an arrested state of being. The outwardly movement of joining spokes (connecting), of shaping clay ( storing), of hammering wood ( building) is no longer completely available for us. And because we work with being, we believe that life has come to a standstill.

However, Non-being remains. It is the hidden source from which we create our lives. We rarely if ever become aware of non-being, but we feel the surge of being in the rhythm of daily life. When that life grinds to a halt; when our identity in the world gets dissolved into the frozen state of lockdown, we cease to experience being. And as Being recedes, an opportunity arises to experience Non-being in our lives. Non-being is the sheer emptiness that holds infinite possibilities. If a playful spirit could inhabit us now, this non-being could have felt like you have the power to create any life you want! Due to mortal danger, that playful spirit eludes us. We cannot stand non-being; we fear this emptiness. We want to rush back into our roles & our identities, and onto the treadmill of regular life.

The pandemic also allows organisations to invite the experience of non-being. Wherever structures folded up and processes broke down, people found themselves in an empty space. This was new territory and they had the freedom to explore. New choices, new decisions were to be made & actions were to be taken. This was non-being made use of.

The Being is what the leaders and decisonmakers hacked at and improvised and desperately tried to restore. The non-being was what actually illumined in people’s awareness as a spark of possibility. Unknown and unavaliable to the cognitive grasp of leaders.

It is the non-being that we use. And it invites us at this point of time.



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