The Bell

The Buddhist monks around Thich Nhat Hanh have a custom in their Plum Village Monastery in Southern France. Every once in a while, a bell is struck1 in order to remind everybody to stop whatever they were doing, and back-pedal for a minute.

Books are closed.
Lunch is stopped.
Discussions fall silent.
Labor is put on hold.

The idea of the bell is to remind people to be mindful. To get back to their senses, to get back to this very moment in time they are experiencing, and to be conscious of it.

As far as I can see, it’s an invitation to leave the unreal world of our memories and dreams and plans and worries and expectations, and simply return to the here and now, embracing it fully.

These days I have been wondering a lot where our fucking bell is.

I would like to have this bell in the meetings of the EU heads of state, inviting politicians and economists blinded by their ideologies to come to their senses and to get their shit together.

How about a bell in Zucotti Park or Oakland, inviting the police to put their batons down and just think for a moment whether they are sure about what they are doing.

I’d love to hear this bell sounding on the trading floors of Wall Street, in the remnants of the nuclear plants of Fukushima, in the border areas of Somalia, where thousands of people have the choice of either dying of starvation or getting treated like animals; raped, stripped of their rights, beaten to death by barbarous militias.

If it’s not too much to ask, I want a bell in the streets of every neighborhood, every village, every town and every city. Damn it, I want a huge mega bell in outer space.

A bell that will be heard by all of us, whenever we get off track and lose touch with the real world that’s right in front of us. Whenever we lose hope because of drowning in the imaginary void of our sorrows and anxieties and angers and insecurities. Whenever we forget that we are all essentially the same. Whenever we forget why we are here, and that this is our only shot at this strange and wonderful game called life.

(Thanks to Janne Hellsten/Nurpax for this wonderful photo. Used under a CC-BY-NC license.)

  1. Or: “Invited” as they prefer to call it, because of the inherent violence in the verb “to strike”. []


  1. I love this post Fabian – it really spoke to me today. I couldn’t agree more: “where is our fucking bell?”

    Truth is that all change starts with us individually – I can’t control the world (much as I would like to sometimes) but I can control me. And that starts with “ringing the bell” for me a few times during the day. I’m sure if I do that, that I’ll be more centered, grounded, calm, peaceful, mindful etc. That (hopefully) will rub off on those with whom I interact each day – they may then ask how I remain so calm – I can tell them about the bell – they do the same – and so the message spreads…….


    1. Thanks Steve, I really believe this is the only way to do it! Let’s start with our personal bells and take it from there!

  2. I remember as a child I use to spin around until I fell over. The earth would rush by my eyes as my stomach revolted. In those dizzining times I was no longer bound by nihilism, but by a universe that smiled as it twisted before me.

    I do not remember my last whirl as a child. Probably when it was no longer acceptable to be happy now, unlike our proper illusion of sorrow, humanity has no problem with that one.

    The bell of bailouts. The uranium bell. The suffering bell. All of these bells are sounding with massive lines forming behind them increasing their amplitude. Like you Fabian, I wonder why the reality bell line is so short. Humanity seems to be only engrossed in living in despair.

    Hope sounds, for we all have the memory, a universal consciousness, of that special tone that permeates our mind. The beauty of this note is that no matter how faint it’s peal, it will call us home if we would only stop and listen.

    This morning as I stretched out my arms as wide as possible, I found myself spinning at 1670 km/hr while standing still. The universe rolls it’s home movies regardless of the sleeping audience, but plays best when we are all awake.

    Do you hear the twist of fate playing? Spin it won’t you.

    1. Jonathan: As always, your comment merits a post on its own, a frontpage mention, even a print run. Thanks for your words. I’m glad you share them here on TFA!

      1. Thank you Fabian.
        I sense that Mastery is the course you are charting for yourself, and inviting us all along for more than a photo op is beyond measure, as you put it, It’s bullshit if you think you cannot change!

        I was at a pub last night when a marketeer overheard my conversation on alertness to which he chimed in with: “The purpose of marketing is getting them to see you as the path of least resistance.”
        I wanted to kill all five of my senses to stop the pain of that truth, that false truth. Marketing is our guide into the wilderness, oh hell. Shakespeare was right, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”

        I am afraid that the world is not yet ready for the sound of that massive bell you envisioned Fabian. I believe we are ready for idleness though. Idleness gives us capacity for change. Change you are exploring so well on The Friendly Anarchist.

        Keep the tone clear Fabian.

        1. Thanks Jonathan. That marketer was a smart man… actually, most successful marketers are. Which sometimes makes me wonder why they do many of the things they do. Of course, not all of them use their power for bad, but many could use it for things so much better…

          The past of least resistance is tempting to us all, I think. Maybe we have to start marketing the path of more resistance, more interestingness and more experiences. Despite the scratches and stuff!

          1. Resistance gets a bad rap, true. But I wonder if the marketing of it would lead to the same bolder, the same hill, the same false reactions.

            I see marketing as leverage.
            “Give me a place to stand and I can move the world,” Archimedes.
            Marketing gives one a place to stand. What we do on this footing …

  3. great idea! But in the meantime, maybe iphone should get an app that has a bell that sounds randomly. Not that I want to get all techy, but sometimes these things in our lives can serve a purpose…

    1. Nadya, I believe you are right. As mentioned in my comment to Britt, a friend of mine is actually considering to write an app for desktops. An iPhone app would be awesome, too, though!

  4. I’m grinning at the thought of a sychronized universal bell.

    This reminds me of Brave New World.. where the parrots would saty Attention! Attention! I think that’s Brave New World isn’t it? Or maybe his other book.. anyway, the idea was to get yourself in the Now.. I like the idea.

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