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