Feast of the Sacrifice

One day, God, to test Abraham’s resolve and obedience asked him to sacrifice his only son Ismail, and Abraham obeyed carrying his son to the altar and ready to sacrifice him to the Almighty, however in the last moment Ismail was replaced by a mutton who was instead sacrificed. This recurrence is celebrated in Islam as Eid al-Adha, the Festival of the Sacrifice. This is a public holiday that involves prayer, family gatherings and visits, exchange of food and gifts and sacrifice of an animal, typically a mutton or goat, to remind of the sacrifice Abraham was ready to make. The sacrifice, Qurbani, meat is divided then into three equal portions, one third is for you and your family, one third is for friends and loved ones and one third is donated to those in need. 

And by the way, the word sacrifice comes from Latin, meaning the action of making something sacred. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

The Saddest Day of the Year

On the Jewish calendar, this is the saddest day of the year, marked by fasting, deprivation and prayer, culminating 3 weeks period to commemorate the destruction of the temple, as well as other tragedies faced by the Jewish people throughout their history. Jews wandering in the desert for 40 years, Holy Temples in Jerusalem destroyed by Babylonians and then Romans, the revolt for the liberation against the Roman yoke ended on defeat, the killing of Jews of Betar on Av, Temple Mount plowed, expulsion from England and from Spain, all seemed to have occurred around these days, and the strife is commemorated on this day. 

The commemoration includes, no eating or drinking, wearing leather, bathe or wash, apply creams, no intimacy, sit on a normal height chair, study those Torah passages that do not recall sad events, no sending gifts, nor greeting one another, no pleasurable activities or wearing festive clothes, until sundown when the laws of Tisha B’av come into place, and services are held in the synagogue on dim lights as the faithful chant lamentations. The focus is mourning and repentance. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

Journey of a Lifetime

On these days millions of Muslims will endeavour in the journey of a lifetime, a demanding journey to get the chance to clear past sins and refresh their souls, as the pilgrims travel to Mecca to accomplish the Hajj, one of the pillars of Islam, a pilgrimage that a devout Muslim needs to carry out at least once in their lifetime, and the time is now as millions travel to Mecca. 

Which will include tasks like, circulating the Kaaba Seven times, pray all day on Mount Arafat, Stay overnight in Muzdalifah, Stoning the devil, Run seven times between Al-Safa and Al-Marwa. 

It is a ritual that celebrates the fraternity among all believers, peace and humility as keys towards renewing the covenant with Allah, cleanse and purify the soul and restore the centrality of faith’s place in daily life. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

World Youth Skills Day

Is a global UN celebration to raise awareness on how important it is to give young people the necessary skills for employment, quality work and entrepreneurship. And since it has been an opportunity of dialogue between youth, vocational education and training institutions, firms, employers, unions, and policymakers. 

The pandemic has disrupted a lot of these processes, especially those concerned with learning and empowerment, as schools all the way to TVET have halted, slowed down and entered an unfamiliar territory, as in parallel the digitalisation of learning is still on its experimental phase and for sure does not allow equal access to all; as well as the job market at entry level, major life-cycle transitions are made difficult when not impossible. With rising youth unemployment and increase of NEETs (not in employment, education or training) since 2020 on a steady growth, 273 million in 2021 alone. This is a stern and important reminder also to companies like ours, when it comes to design and deliver our educational and empowerment offer, and to take into consideration the competences needed by youth to contribute to their well-being as well as this planet’s. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

World Population Day

“Rights and choices are the answer: Whether baby boom or bust, the solution to shifting fertility rates lies in prioritizing the reproductive health and rights of all people” UN 

On the one hand, it took us hundreds of thousands of years to grow up to one billion, and a mere 200 to grow seven times more, expecting to hit 11 billion by 2100. This is due to survival at the reproductive age, increasing urbanisation, migrations amd changes in fertility rates. 

Since the 1970s fertility rates dropped globally to 2.5 children per woman, while life expectancy increased to 72.6 years. Moreover, urbanisations appears to be one of the factors combined with migration, today 66% of humanity lives in cities. When unmanaged these trends have strong implications that impact development, employment, the economy, income distribution, social protection, education, healthcare etc. So there is a need for policymakers to understand this data, in order to design interventions and adaptation that strive towards social sustainability towards a positive impact on the quality of life. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

The Martyrdom of Bab

It was in the morning of July the 9th in Tabriz, today Iran, when the merchant named Bab was accused of blasphemy and sentenced to death. Bab was the founder of the Baha’i faith. 

The faithful believe in the miracle but upon being shot by the firing squad, when the smoke cleared he was nowhere to be found, and was seen in his prison cell dictating to his secretary. Bahai faithful community commemorate the Martyrdom of the Báb with prayers and scripture. Especially the Tablets of Visitation. This scripture signifies the passing of an important figure.

May my spirit be a sacrifice to the wrongs Thou didst suffer, and my soul be a ransom for the adversities Thou didst sustain. I beseech God, by Thee and by them whose faces have been illumined with the splendors of the light of Thy countenance, and who, for love of Thee, have observed all whereunto they were bidden, to remove the veils that have come in between Thee and Thy creatures, and to supply me with the good of this world and the world to come. Thou art, in truth, the Almighty, the Most Exalted, the All-Glorious, the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Compassionate.”

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

Advancing of the Desert

World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought

Since 1995 the global community has set this day to remind our struggle to contrast desertification and drought which is an ongoing, at time worsening, threat to our ecosystems, livelihoods, environment and economy, and to this day too little has be done about it. 1.5 billion people depend on land that is gradually degrading, and yearly 75 billion tons of fertile land are lost because of this, amounting to 12 million hectares of land every year lost to desertification and drought, destroying the environment and reducing the production of essential food. 

So what needs to be done? 

  1. Policy accompanied by management practice of the land and ecosystems as a joint operation, locally and globally involving every sector of society, and raise awareness of the general public.
  2. Social and political actions to counter desertification in national action plans and programmes implemented in areas where desertification is just at its starting level, by requalifying degraded areas, and showcase also the economic benefit.

It is rightfully one of the millennium development goals, also because, for now, this cataclysm affects mostly developing countries ill-equipped to afford and possess the know-how to counter desertification, and the drylands in the world host about half of the human population living in poverty, negatively impacting in a downward spiral the quality of life, contributing to social and economical decline. Countering desertification will impact human well-being, ecosystem safeguard and protection, the biosphere as a whole, and struggle to eradicate poverty. Action is now! 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

Responsible Wishing

By Eleni Michail

What are you wishing for your life? What would you invite to come? We always wish for something more in our life, especially around the beginning of a new year. We may be satisfied and thankful with the “place” we are right now, but we definitely wish for something new or something more; a loving partner, a fulfilling job, a beautiful family, a healthier body, a safe home, a liberating change, a deeper meaning, a moment of silence… I am not referring to the mindless consumption here. I am talking about the true self-actualization desires. These are completely legitimate things. Our never-ending thirst for growth is what helped us evolve over time, create the arts and sciences.

However, many times, we fall in the trap of grumbling about the things we long for. Perhaps unconsciously we choose to stay in the comfort of complaining or whining. It sounds odd but it is more comfortable to complain and whine about things than actually take the responsibility for pursuing them.

But there’s a trick here. The process of complaining and whining, wishing but avoiding, takes in the end far more time and effort, than taking the responsibility of acting upon them. The process of grumbling unconsciously makes us think that we are small and unable to reach them. Eventually it does not bring us closer to the things we wish for, but further.

So let’s rethink of that. Let’s tune into our responsible part and act upon the things we long for. Maybe it’s time for us to roll up our sleeves and start walking towards them. Sometimes this journey begins and ends only by setting an intention, or voicing our wish in a responsible and committed manner.

Would you be up for tuning into responsible wishing?

Living Timelessly

By Eleni Michail

Do you remember when we were children and our perception of time was different? Do you recall the age when time was unmeasurable and sometimes 10 seconds felt like 1 hour or 1 hour felt like 10 seconds? These were moment we really delved into the present moment. Living with mindfulness our experiences. Now, time is measured. Strictly measured and scarce.

Our whole life is time-bounded. We are forcefully given a plan with what needs to be done at a certain age; from schooling to retirement. Our role is to execute this plan faithfully. “Oh dear, don’t you dare to miss, skip or delay any of the predefined activities!” a voice would say with a hidden promise of punishment. Then, each day has its own plan of tasks and our role is to race through them. At the end of the day, we secretly wish for 2 more hours to rest or play at ease with our child, spend more time with our loved ones, exercise, cook, breathe.

It looks like we do not own the time any more or that time is our evil foe. It feels there is no time to live. But there is. If we choose to be in the moment, to experience fully what is happening now, the time strangely unfolds and expands. There, lays a space to breathe and live. When we choose to be mindful, our lives become timeless. Would you say yes for a timeless life? Give me a ❤️ if your answer is yes!

Demise of the Community Organiser

Martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev Sahib

Today the Sikh followers recall the Martyrdom of Guru Arjjan Dev Sahib, the first Sikh martyr, who was tortured and executed in 1606 in Lahore after refusing to abandon his faith disobeying the orders of Mughal Emperor Jahangir. Guru Arjan’s legacy was the first Sikh scripture, the Adi Granth that lives through this day and onwards and adopting and formalizing the Gurmukhi alphabet. His deeds include organising a charity system to support the needed in a more long term and sustainable way also to support soup kitchens, a system for resolving litigations and disputes and indeed a community organisers in the very sense of the word and for that worshipped to his day, as his sacrifice and martyrdom lives on to inspire present and future generations. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

What Is Buried Is Not Dead

By Eleni Michail, 

I do not believe in superficial celebrations. I believe in honouring the value of things and beings. And today, being the international day of women, I wish to honour the value of the feminine traits in us, traits in both women and men, traits which were suppressed, silenced, wounded, buried…

On a hot day, we began a journey to find the old monastery. The dirt road was bumpy and the sun was burning. The landscape was lunar; a vast area of empty hills, dead grass, scarce bushes. In the distance you could see a hugely wide, stony dry riverbed. One would say life almost abandoned this place.

The more we approached the monastery, the more I felt something vibrating. “I need to get down here” I said with a sudden voice that surprised even me. The car stopped and we got down. The conditions were not inviting – it was too hot, too stony, too thorny- yet something was moving me, inside and out. I began to walk energetically. This place seemed dead but it felt so alive. This place seemed new but it felt so familiar. This place seemed dry, but fluid emotions were overflowing me. Sacred life was somewhere hidden here.

I opened my mouth and let the voice to come out. I was surely in a duet. Something from the depth was singing and I was responding repeatedly. In the midst of this song, I softened my heart and surrendered my body to the motion and the emotion.

Few minutes later, in between the stones on the walls of the monastery, we found the tangible proof. A symbol of an ancient Aphrodite’s temple stuck in between the other stones. A sign that here, a temple of the Goddess was once standing with pride, reminding humans of their feminine capacity to bring life, to love deeply, to savor pleasure, to put boundaries, to be wild, to hold the others, to listen from the heart, to express, to see the unseen, to heal. Now the old temple is silenced, disassembled and buried under the Monastery.

But here’s the truth; What is buried is not dead. It is not dead, even if it is buried for a thousand years. Instead, it is fully alive and it is awaiting for us. The feminine traits of us, whether they are suppressed, silenced, wounded, or buried, they are not dead. They are calling us from the depth, to unearth them and reclaim them.

Today I am honouring the feminine traits in us, women and men. What are you honoring?

Child Labour is a Crime

It is shocking that so far into the XXI century we still need a day to keep in mind that we still did not eradicate the problem of child labour, although progress was registered across the planet, this still remains a major challenge, upon reading that today 152 million children are victims of child labour and 73 million of them carry out dangerous jobs in mines, working with chemicals or operating heavy machinery. Child Labour is not only ethically wrong, to deprive a child of its basic right to actually have a childhood, we are also looking at safekeeping the mental and physical health that is threatened by this harmful practice of employing children. Children are unskilled, low-cost labour, removed from education in order to support and provide for their poor households and families by contributing with the little wage they receive, and facing more hazards than their adult co-workers. Moreover, without a proper education they will remain unskilled labourers with small chances if at all to have a better future. It is a practice and culture that needs to be eradicated, for the present and future children at risk of being exploited by investing in education and improving working conditions and salaries for the adults in order to make it unnecessary for a child to leave school and remove childhood for the sake of hard labour and salaries. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

Seeds of Change

Youth Growth through positive environmental engagement

Today we are going to start a new series of articles, this time honouring the work and practice of our colleague and friend  eco-trainer and coach Eleni Michail from Cyprus, who offers us a hands-on practical approach to linking youth development to nature’s processes and the More-Than-Human world. 

Our first article is an introduction to the free handbook and toolkit Eleni developed jointly with Ognian Gadoularov and Bogdan Romanica, called “Seeds of Chain” which contains theories on growth through nature’s approaches and positive approaches, and most of all non-formal education tools, and it is free an accessible to all. 

Seeds of Change is a toolkit that can be used to enhance the impact of Youth work on the social

integration of disadvantaged youth – their personal, social and professional development. It is also a tool for acknowledging and highlighting the importance of Youth work and for increasing its quality. The creation of the manual “Seeds of Change – cultivating of authentic growth of youth” is a result of the EU supported project “Moving Beyond – innovative learning tools for personal and professional development of youth”. One of the outcomes of the project was creation of an adapted approach based on Ecocentric development (ECD), Positive Psychology (PP) and nature based learning (NBL) to be used in the context of social integration and work with disadvantaged youth. The manual offers a theoretical part and a set of practical methods for direct implementation when working with young people. The content is based on data from scientific literature on the topic and analysis of practical experiments and experience conducted during the project. This manual opens new opportunities for the youth sector, offering innovative methodologies that could be easily incorporated in various formats of Youth work . You can download the full manual here.

World Ocean’s Day

The 30×30 Campaign 

Since 1992 this day was proclaimed World Oceans Day, it is both a celebration of this wondrous shared ecosystem and a call to action, a moment for individuals, communities and others to celebrate that natural element after which our Earth is called the Blue Planet. We have a duty, and that is to restore the oceans and protect its ecosystem for our own well-being, by healing at least 30% of these waters by 2030, a necessary action to solve the climate crisis and safeguard biodiversity, for this purpose the campaign 30×30 was born. 

World leaders in every sector of society need to hear from us that today’s actions impact the Blue Planet and the wellbeing of future generations. Join the action today, tomorrow and onwards, and here is how: 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

Reimagine, Recreate, Restore – the time is now

Join us in celebrating the World Environment Day

World Food and Agriculture Organisation reports that there is at least going to be 1 billion hectares of land degraded in the next year, that is the size of Europe. Today 3.2 billion people are affected by land degradation, affecting both quality and quality of food and water, healing of our planet and of ourselves needs to start now. Beginning by growing trees, rewilding gardens, cleaning the water and healthier diets, this can be the point in history where humanity has made peace with the-more-than-human world. Yes, lets grieve the loss of ecosystems, habitats and species, and let’s also express joy in the knowledge that this can change, has to change from now on. Time to be bold, at Rescogita we are joining #GenerationRestoration , what about you? 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

THE RESOLUTION (THE END?) (Pat 12)

This article was originally published on “To Say Nothing of the Cat”, the author’s personal blog where he explores the connections between storytelling and contemporary culture

As the end of the year approaches, so does the conclusion of my series on the Hero’s Journey. This post is dedicated to the very reason why all journeys start: to end.

We are now at the real conclusion of our story. Anything that could have happened, has happened. Forge new friendships and test them, check. Encounter enemies and defeat them, check. Get the treasure and experience, check. Now it’s time to go back to where it all started.

Each character approaches the end of their story arc. Facing their respective challenges, they underwent the personal transformations that will define their individual Journeys.

At this point the characters have become fully conscious of their role as “heroes”, of all its implications, as well as of the true nature of their journeys.

During the Road of Trials, in the Dark Cave or during the climactic (from climax, not in the sense of the weather conditions) Death and Rebirth phase, the protagonists have understood what was the deeper meaning of their Call to Adventure.

At the beginning they might have thought to go on a quest for personal gain, success, wealth or glory; but now, after the Rewards have been claimed, it’s the time when the Hero(es) realise that their quest must be dedicated to a purpose higher than their own personal fulfillment.

There are several ways in which this can happen. Whether it be to go back to their community with the treasure, found a new city, start a family, or simply to become a better person – it remains to be seen. But a few elements must be there. Let’s have a look at them.

inception

“Inception” (2010) provides a very good example of open ending for a movie that might be just the perfect resolution for the story… or not?

In the best storyelling, for a Journey to be complete, three “heroic” dimensions have to be met: – the personal, material world, in which the Heroes realise their limits (first of all, physical: for example through acknowledging their own’s mortality), develop new abilities, and understand in which direction they have to focus their efforts to reach their goals. This is to become aware of each own’s potential and explore the sense of Self. It can be compared to the transition from childhood to adolescence. For the first time, the individual forms a sense of its own separate and specific identity. This also means having to make a few choices that separate us from our original roots;

– the social, collective sphere: which focuses on issues like belonging, legacy, family, community; and in which the Heroes have to answer questions like “to whom do you belong?”, “where do you come from?” and “who is your tribe?”. Here, in other words, Heroes become aware of their place in a world that is larger then their Selves. It can be compared to stepping into adulthood: understanding that we are social animals, and no-one can live a really fulfilling life without developing social connections. This stage can be challenging, especially for people coming from dysfunctional backgrounds: and that’s exactly the reason why a new awareness in this area can be a powerful therapeutic tool. What if I don’t have a tribe (or community, or family, or country…) to go back to? Then you can always create your own – and maybe that’s the reason why you left on your Journey;

– the spiritual, transcendent world. This is to become aware that life is much more than we can see and touch. It’s the dimension that gives purpose and direction to all the rest, “that binds the Galaxy together“. It’s the place of Self-less-ness, where the Ego is abandoned and dissolves: so that complete inspiration, enlightenment and release can be experienced. This process can be compared to the new awareness that comes at the end of each major life cycle (maybe call it “midlife crisis” in our society), and with every major awareness step we may take in our life.

These three dimensions can be interpreted in different ways: in a sense, it’s a journey into the Personal – Collective – Transcendent awareness. In another, it’s the transition between Adolescence – Adulthood – Elderhood. Or, again, symbolised Body – Mind – Soul. This tryad element is common in every human culture since prehistoric times: maybe a sign that it’s deeply embedded in us.

Newgrange_Entrance_Stone

The Triskele or “triple spiral” adorns the entrance stone in Newgrange, Ireland. It’s a symbol of perpetual change, with three spirals flowing into each other.

In conclusion, The Resolution in the Hero’s Journey is the accomplishment of all parables of personal development and growth. It’s the moment when all the plot lines come together, and no question is left unanswered.

*

Only at the end of all this process the Journey can be considered complete.

In most stories, this happens in a relatively compact space and time, with well defined phases of beginning, development and resolution. This depends also on the medium, the way the story is told: “the narrative arc” needs some tension to work well. In other cases, the classical structure is modified – like in the examples offered by the Odyssey or in The Lord of the Rings, which we have already discussed in this other post. A similar pattern can also be found in the Major Arcana of the Tarots tradition, as Tarot divination is mainly storytelling. The similarities between the models are amazing, and certainly not a simple coincidence: the journey starts with a situation of un-awareness, naivety (The Fool, number zero)

220px-RWS_Tarot_00_Fool

and, after a long journey in which we get to meet several archetypal characters, human qualities and natural elements, the journey ends in the total harmony and global understanding that is represented by The World (number 21). It’s a very interesting story. I have the feeling I will analyze this in more detail in a future post.

RWS_Tarot_21_World

In other words – for a story to have a good, satisfying ending, it’s not necessary that everything ends well. The “Happy ending” is a concept introduced by Hollywood “golden age” storytellers, who were more concerned to give their American audience a reassuring experience, to encourage them to come back to cinema and to spread optimism. The “and they lived happily thereafter” doesn’t really belong to the European tradition, from the Classic stories of the Celtic, Norse and Greek-Roman myths, up until the medieval and later fairy tales. And the same is true if we look at folk lore and legends from all around the world.

Sure, a surprise plot twist help, because it’s exciting and leaves a long lasting impression on us. But in general, we don’t need to be reassured or consoled, in order to enjoy a story. We need to learn from it: we need to feel that we joined an universal experience, and that all plot lines were serving a purpose, and have reached it.  This is the “resolution” (from the latin “resolvo“, loosen, or reducing things into simpler forms), and is possible only if a storyteller is capable (and brave) enough to dive deep in all of the three mentioned dimensions, and do some digging.

The-Usual-Suspects-Verbal-Kint-IS-Keyser-Soze

“The Usual Suspects” (1995) is by many considered the best movie ending all of times. And certainly it is NO happy ending.

Easy? Certainly not. Scary? Of course yes. And maybe that’s why this can be a crucial self development experience. It is connected to some of the most basic questions we all face during the course of our lives. Does it make sense? Let’s test it through the philter of a famous blockbuster movie. However imperfect the plot might be (I am not denying this), let’s use Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar (2014) to test what we are saying.

WARNING: spoilers about the movie below the line!

The main character, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), leaves on his quest to save the Earth or at least Humankind. When he leaves, he leaves behind unsettled conflicts with his family, especially his wife who died prematurely, and his daughter Murph.

Left to right: Mackenzie Foy and Matthew McConaughey in INTERSTELLAR, from Paramount Pictures and Warner Brothers Pictures, in association with Legendary Pictures.

Left to right: Mackenzie Foy (Murph) and Matthew McConaughey (Cooper).

He joins a desperate, emergency mission set up by what is left of NASA to save the Earth. All his personal and family issues of course leave with him. Are they solved before the end of the story? When is the moment for their “resolutions”?

The first crisis happens on the water planet, where waves are so massive to appear like mountains in the distance. Here the crew meets for the first time the harsh reality of their mission, the possibility of failure, physical harm and death. It’s also the moment to test the loyalty or frailties of friends. This is translated into storytelling terms with the solution of letting one of the crew members die. Coop also gains a renewed trust in his own skills at this stage. Before leaving in fact, he couldn’t cope with the sense of failure left from the last space mission he took part to. This time, his decisions and ability save the day. In the first challenge, he gains new awareness on himself and his crew mates.  What next? The unsolved conflict with his daugther stays unsolved, and of course it doesn’t help that interstellar communication can only happen through an intergalactic distance, and one-way only. Cooper is forced to face the consequences his life choice have on other people around him. The people he loves, and possibly also others: if his mission fails, the whole human species will face suffering and extinction. This dimension reaches its peak on the frozen planet discovered by Dr. Mann (played by Matt Damon). The situation and dialogues here are all centred on the macro-topic of the social dimension of the protagonist. Is one individual able to distinguish between his own personal interest, his family’s, and the broader good of our species?

Dr. Mann: Your father had to find another way to save the human race from extinction. Plan B. A colony. 

Brand: But why not tell people? Why keep building those damn stations? 

Dr. Mann: Because he knew how hard it would be to get people to work together to save the species instead of themselves. 

Cooper: Bullshit. 

Dr. Mann: You never would have come here unless you believed you were going to save them. Evolution has yet to transcend that simple barrier. We can care deeply – selflessly – about those we know, but that empathy rarely extends beyond our line of sight. 

Brand: But the lie… that monstrous lie… 

Dr. Mann: Unforgivable. And he knew that. He was prepared to destroy his own humanity in order to save the species. He made an incredible sacrifice… 

Cooper: No. No, the incredible sacrifice is being made by the people on Earth who are gonna die! Because in his fucking arrogance he declared their case hopeless. 

Dr. Mann: I’m sorry Cooper. Their case… is hopeless. 

Cooper: No… no. 

Dr. Mann: We are the future. 

…[after Mann breaks Cooper’s helmet and leaves him for dead] 

Dr. Mann: I’m sorry. I can’t watch you go through this. I’m sorry. I thought I could, but I can’t. I’m here. I’m here for you. Just listen to my voice, Cooper. I’m right here. You’re not alone. 

Dr. Mann: [looking back] Do you see your children? It’s okay, they’re right there with you. 

Only after successfully facing these challenges, and having found his personal answers, Cooper will be able to move forward in his quest. Into the next dimension: the Transcendent. When he faces the Black Hole – what better symbol for what we don’t understand? Literally, we don’t know what is on the other side. We don’t even know if there is another side! – he is ready for his final sacrifice. His individual missions accomplished, and he is ready to do whatever it takes, in order to give humankind a chance of survival. It’s a moment of powerful, cathartic release: “Netwton’s third law: we gonna leave something behind”, he says, while he prepares himself to jump into the Big Unknown. I will not discuss the movie ending here (in my opinion, the only disappointing part of this otherwise magnificent movie). But I believe that “Interstellar” serves our case nicely: with its different challenges, which take place on different planets, it presents a very clear representation and helps illustrate the three dimensions of Cooper’s Hero’s Journey. The personal sphere is entered when Coop faces the first, water planet. Hard decision have to be taken, with hard and irrevocable consequences; The social / collective side of the quest is explored on the frozen-cold planet where he meets the stranded Doctor Mann (who also symbolises very effectively some parts of the collective consciousness of humankind: selfishness, survival instinct, manipulation) and faces questions related to his family and even the destiny of the human species; The final mystery, represented by the encounter with the Black Hole. It’s a final moment of truth, but having now reached the end of his story, Cooper is ready to sacrifice everything he has, even his life, to give Humankind a hope of survival.

THE END… or not?

And so this is also my own Resolution. The decision I took, six months ago, to write an ambitious series of posts describing in the detail each stage of the Hero’s Journey, is now complete. It’s also very fitting that it happens now, at the end of the year (I started writing in June 2015 and it is now December 26th), and I believe many aspects of this incredibly complex topic have been, at least marginally, touched. I will write more on the topic and on its several spin offs, but in the meantime I will just say this: I you have been able to follow me until now, here is my biggest THANK YOU. And if you haven’t… well, maybe you will!

Please note! Rescogita doesn’t own the pictures used in this article. They are shared under fair use for educational purposes. All rights belong to the respective owners.

Pentecost

The 50th Day

Pentecost comes from Greek, meaning 50th day, and it is one of the main Christian celebrations, commemorating the time when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles and disciples after Christ ascends to Heaven, beginning thus Christian’s mission to spread Christianity throughout the world of a new Covenant, this time between God and all of humanity. I On this day priests wear ritual clothes decorated with cloth resembling flames, as the flame that descended from the Holy Spirit to the Apostles and Disciples which gifted them with divine wisdom and the knowledge of the languages of the World in order to spread the Christian message, marking this as a time of renewal, as some Christian communities renovate their baptism in the timespan between Easter and Pentecost, and to uphold Christian values and lifestyle. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

DEATH AND REBIRTH (Part 11)

By Carmine Rodi Falanga

This article was originally published on “To Say Nothing of the Cat”, the author’s personal blog where he explores the connections between storytelling and contemporary culture

 I know, the title of this post may sound a little exaggerated, maybe even scary. But it describes effectively the stage that comes next in the structure of the Hero’s Journey.

Let’s try to remember all that happened so far: a Challenge has been set (and initially, naturally, Rejected); a Journey started; Teaching happened all over along the way, together with strange, exotic and sometimes dangerous Encounters; a Big Danger has been faced; a fabled Reward was claimed. Along the way, a lot of Experienced happened. Our hero (who finally accepts he/she is a Hero) has packed again, crossed another Threshold, is ready to go back home. It couldn’t get any better. It’s done, right?

hunger

Yeah. Katniss seems to think that her Journey isn’t quite over yet, even after she won “The Hunger Games” (2012).

Not quite. It’s exactly at this point that a new, even more important challenge must take place. Because it’s not enough for our Heroes, to be aware of their new conditions and experience. Now it’s time to show that they are really worthy of it. The Journey back home has many challenges. Reluctantly, the protagonists might even have persuaded themselves that going back home might be the right thing to do. Even if the Extraordinary World feels so good, deep inside they know that the Treasure they found cannot be for their own benefit only. Instead, it needs to be taken back home and shared with the community. But to know it is not enough: now they must learn why.

And this is the essence of this Stage of the Journey. In writing or screenplays, it’s the Climax (from the Greek for “stairway”) that awaits now. The peak, the highest challenge met so far by the Hero, the real and final test.

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“Climax” is quite the word that comes to mind when Ripley has to battle the Mother Alien at the end of “Aliens” (1986). Just when all troubles seemed over. James Cameron knows the tricks in successful storytelling, apparently.

In stories from all traditions, this is such a strong narrative moment, one that can involve somebody’s death, departure, or some other form of permanent loss: a connection, a possession, a body part. Powerful symbols are used here to deliver the meaning that in order for the transition to a New Stage of Existance to be effective, a price has to be paid. And sometimes it’s a high price. There are several forms in which this can manifest. We will try to examine a few.  The loss of the divine lover: maybe no story teaches this lesson more strongly (and painfully) than the Classic Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. As you could remember, we have already encountered it in a previous post. The brave Orpheus, son of Apollo, went all the way down to the Underworld to bring back to life his beloved young wife, Eurydice, who died prematurely.

After a true Ordeal, he strikes a deal with the King of the Dead, Hades. He could take back his wife, but in order to do so, he would have to walk back leading the way. Eurydice would follow him, just a few steps behind. With one condition: Orpheus had to trust the agreement blindly. He would never, under any circumstance, turn back his head in doubt. He would never look back to check if his loved one was still following him. He had to have faith, until they were safely in the open again.

The brave man accepts the deal. What else could he do? He didn’t get all the way down to the Realm of the Dead for nothing after all. So the couple starts their journey back to the surface, soon to realise that it would be the hardest part of their adventure yet. Monsters and demons lurked in the dark at every corner; strange and fearful noises echoed in the shadows at every step. But after a while, Orpheus couldn’t hear his love’s footsteps anymore. Or so he thought? His faith started to falter. Was she still there? What if something terrible happened just then? If he turned his head just once, for a quick glance, would anyone ever notice?

Consumed by self-doubt, the young man couldn’t resist, and turned his head. Just once, just to quickly check if everything was fine… and yes, Eurydice was there, following him! But so was Hades, inflexible, still honouring his part of the deal. While Orpheus didn’t: and to his greatest horror, the young poet could do nothing but witness as his wife, the love of his life, vanished into darkness again. This time, for good, and nothing could ever restore her to her previous mortal form.

The tragic ending of Orpheus and Eurydice’s story, portrayed by Elsie Russel.

EurydiceOrpheusRussell

Firm but fair. Not exactly your perfect happy ending, eh? But so were often the classic stories from the past – before (mainly) Hollywood sweetened them more and more to reassure and please audiences worldwide. As tough as it may be, the story offers some strong universal teachings for us to learn. This particular myth is so rich and deep you can choose your own moral(s): never give in to self-doubt. Or – death and loss are inevitable and we must learn to deal with them. Or maybe, nobody can cheat the Gods and get away with it. Orpheus learns in the hardest possible way, with the loss of his beloved half, that if he wants to go on with life he needs to leave something behind.

*

The Fallen Angel parable. Many other myths or tales choose more reassuring symbolisms to express the concept of necessary change. This can be the moment when the Villain, having completed his cycle, meets his fate (we have discussed the very important role of Villains in a story here). And mind you: it’s not only to say “ah, see, the bad guy gets what he deserves!”. There is a much deeper meaning that is conveyed here. The Villain is expression of an unbalance, a twisted plot – another Journey – that has its roots in the past, where the Hero fell victim to their own weaknesses or passions.

At this point of the story, it’s time for this to be solved. That particular aspect of the past has been dealt with, and it’s time to turn page, move on. This is symbolised with the demise of the Bad Guy, and the closure of its narrative arc. This is described very well in The Lion King (1994) for example:

scar

Scar, the evil brother, eventually falls victim of his own selfish ego (portrayed by the hyenas).

Or, and it couldn’t be otherwise, see the role of Darth Vader in Star Wars – who redeems himself before he can be seen for the first time by his son:


Anakinredeemed

“The Return of the Jedi” (1983). “Just for once let me look on you with my own eyes”.

Or, in some other cases, it’s the Hero that has to go through his own personal ritual of Transformation. Sometimes metaphorically, sometimes quite literally. Let’s see a few examples:

Luke Skywalker in “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980) loses a hand in a lighsaber duel, after he learns who is his real father. He has to build a new identiy: symbolised here by the loss of a limb.Indiana Jones has to face the possible death of his father in “The Last Crusade” (1989), before he can choose what are the most important values in his life in the movie that ends the saga. I said, ends the saga. 


trinity

And in the most iconic – if a bit cheesy – scene in “The Matrix”, Neo is dead and brought back to life by Trinity and her love. His cycle (remember how he started the journey?) is complete.

The Hero faces his own death, and is brought back to life by the teachings he got (as in Star Wars) or his Allies (Neo in The Matrix he has learned to love – Indiana Jones heals the relationship with his father and decides that ambition is not the primary value of his life), maybe with a scar that will be a constant reminder of the Journey, representing change.

The Martyrdom. In more drastic cases, the hero dies. Think of course about the parable and life story of Jesus Christ. In these cases it becomes even more important that the story survives, so future generations will learn and prosper from it. In this way, the sacrifice wouldn’t be in vain – and this explains why in many traditional cultures storytellers were highly respected, almost “holy” members of the community. Nowadays they are mostly starving, while a privileged few get a villa in California. Let’s see a few cases:

maxresdefaultEven the visual representation of Leonida’s death scene in “300” (2006) is a strong reference to the Crucifixion. It’s martyrdom in the essence.

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The bad-turned-good cyborg meets his fate at the end of “Terminator 2” (1991), but the audience feels alright. He cannot speak from the bottom of the melted steel pool, but you can almost hear him saying I WILL BE BACK. I guess it all makes sense by now. What is the meaning for us, then?

Once again, each of us can choose our own interpretation of such an ancient and powerful element of storytelling. But in short, this stage teaches us that just when we believe we have reached a new, safe destination, it’s time to prove (once more) that we are worthy of it. And this usually comes in the form of a very demanding test, which will require a price to pay. Every passage of state is demanding – and must be so. In a way, it’s again a Threshold to cross, and it follows the same rules. It’s really that simple. If we want to move on, we have to leave something behind. This concept can also help in dealing with grief or loss. It’s inevitable, it’s the supreme mystery of life, and maybe it’s exactly the reason why we all embarked in this Journey in this world? It’s hard, to let go.  But some “old” needs to die, in order for “new” to emerge. The hero must learn this hard lesson, before his Journey is complete.

Tears_In_Rain

“All those moments will be lost in time, like tears… in… rain. Time to die”. The unforgettable final monologue of Roy in Blade Runner (1982). His arc is complete. Almost makes you wonder who is the hero here.

It may sound easy in principle, of course, but it’s not as comfortable when we are called to face such situations in our life. Ok, we get it: change is necessary. But our new comfort zone feels just so cosy, do we have to leave it so soon? We worked so hard to get our reward, do we really have to leave it all behind and start again? Yes, but not all. There is also good news: this is also a very important moment to affirm our power of choice. The Extraordinary World can be tempting, so reassuring after we have mastered its ways, defeated the bad guys, and claimed its rewards. But here is the deeper meaning: to really incorporate the change in us, we must choose what to take with us – and what not – and make space for it. Something must stay behind, for some other things to make it through and become part of us, in the next parts of our Journey and life. But the elements that will come with us, will stay with us forever. 

The Spaniard’s story in “The Gladiator” (2000) is another clear example of Martyrdom. At the end of his arc, he welcomes death as a transition. Not an end, but a beginning. I myself find this particular teaching very useful every time I am involved in coaching or training with a group, and the end of an intense residential experience is approaching. 

There is that feeling of “oh but why do I have to go back to real life?” that is hard to overcome, sometimes.

The Hero’s Journey metaphors really can help there. Because in the end, there is no “real” and “imaginary” life. Life is one and it’s a whole. What happens in our fantasy is real enough, if we remember how powerful our imagination can be. And what happens in our everyday life can be as fantastic as a fairy tale, if we use our newly-acquired magic abilities and – for example – appreciate all the privileges we have, the people we meet and share our adventures with, see our challenges (big and small) as heroic quests, and are not afraid to claim the treasures that wait in the Dark Cave. If, in other words, we are not afraid to turn our lives into “Heroic Tales”. That is the magic, healing power of storytelling.

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In “The Neverending Story” Bastian manages to merge his own real (a bit boring) world, with Fantasia. And he is a hero!

After his(her) Resurrection, the Hero knows this: reality is fantastic, and fantasy is real. And the Hero will be known henceforth as the Master of the Two Worlds: able to get the best from both dimensions, travel between them at will, and appreciate them both in their differences.

Please note! Rescogita doesn’t own the pictures used in this article. They are shared under fair use for educational purposes. All rights belong to the respective owners.

International Day for Biological Diversity

If we are not part of the solution, we are part of the problem

UN declared the 22nd of may International Day for Biological Diversity, the aim is to raise awareness, as well as increasing the understanding of biodiversity issues, since 1993, th day of the Convention on Biological Diversity , the times are dire today and require immediate and urgent action and that is why this day’s purpose is call for a renewed convention, calling not only for governments but also for civil society, individuals and every sector of society to make their voices loud and clear expressing the with for a strong global biodiversity framework and invert the trend of biodiversity loss for our planet. That is why this year’s theme is “We are part of the solution”, which is a continuation of last year’s “Our solutions are in nature” reminding us that biodiversity is the answer to many sustainable development challenges, nature-based solution to climate, health, food and water security, and where biodiversity is the foundation where to build back better. https://www.cbd.int/biodiversity-day 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development

Years ago I came across two researchers, one of them was studying cultural and historical traditions concerning some specific foods which were considered as ‘traditional’ and which played a strong role in defining the local and national identity, and the other researcher was set on a quest to find the origins of a song which many cultures, even distant, consider it to be part of their folklore and tradition. Regardless what a fascinating journey this was in terms of findings both researchers had to give up, failing at finding which culture, nation or people first came up with that recipe and that song. Even more fascinating was the discovery of evidence of cross ‘pollination’ among human cultures and the similar ways how we adopt and adapt each others’ customs and traditions in very similar ways. This is what should be told to those cultural dimension based conflicts that make up for ¾ of the conflicts occurring in the world according to the UN, and bridging that gap is essential, urgent even, to accomplish peace, stability and development.  The day provides us with an opportunity to deepen our understanding of the values of cultural diversity and to advance the four goals of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions adopted on 20 October 2005: Time to start, right?  Find out more here : https://www.un.org/en/observances/cultural-diversity-day 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

World Bee Day

The UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution on 20 December 2017 declaring 20 May World Bee Day.

The aim is to focus on the importance to preserve bees and other pollinators for humanity and the whole world, and a call to action for initiatives and activities that can help preserve the legacy and essential biosphere contribution of these creatures. It all started back in 2014 as a grassroot initiative of Slovenian Beekeepers Association and slowly turned into a global event that resonates across the whole world. The purpose of this day, campaign and movement is to raise awareness among the public and to lobby among policymakers from local to global to carry out legislation aimed at protecting all bees and pollinators and safeguard their existence in grave danger today because of human activities harming the environment.  Join the campaign https://www.worldbeeday.org/ 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

Shavuot – The Feast of Weeks

7 weeks after Pesach (Passover) comes the Feast of Weeks, also sometimes mentioned as Pentecost, its roots are likely to be found in a grain harvest festival. Although its religious significance is connected to the Exodus of the Jewish people from the Egyptian captivity, and marking the date when Moses was handed the Torah on Mount Sinai, marking also the birth of Jewish consciousness, entering a covenant and pact with God. It is a time of rejoice where God and Israel enter a symbolic marriage. This day is celebrated in synagogues, and special reading such as the Piyyutim and the Book of Ruth followed by an all night study session of the holy texts. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

The Night of Power

Laylat al-Qadr

Tonight is the holiest night in Islam, as this is the night when the Holy Quran was told to the Prophet Muhammad by Jibrail, the Angel, and occurs on the final 10 days of Ramadan. 

A single good deed done on this night, bring the blessing of one thousand months, while dedicating to worship and increase the Taqwa and recite the Holy Book, while giving to those in need and accomplishing one of the Five Pillars of Islam, giving charity. 

It is a long and sleepless night to pray and reflect, and inspire the good deeds that can be done onto others, and a time for mutual forgiveness. Praying 

“We have indeed revealed this in the ‘Night of Power’. And what will explain to you what the night of power is? The Night of Power is better than a thousand months. Therein come down The Angels and the Spirit by Allah’s permission, on every errand. “Peace!…This until the rise of Morn!”

-Surah Al-Qadr

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach

The UN General Assembly, issued resolution 72/130 declaring 16th of may as International Day of Living Together in Peace, to remind and mark the need for the international community to act to foster peace, tolerance, inclusion and solidarity, to live together united in our differences and diversity and a build a sustainable world of peace, solidarity and harmony. Which also means to put that extra effort on reconciliation and encourage forgiveness and compassion among people and individuals. So lets join the campaign and reminder at www.16may.org 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

International Day of Light

On may 16th 1960 Theodore Maiman carried out the very first successful laser operation, and since 2015, to mark this historic day UNESCO has promoted the International Day of Light, to celebrate scientific advancement and the benefit it brings to us. 

This is a global celebration to focus on appreciating light and its role in science, culture, art, education, sustainable development and regeneration in every possible field. Its initial name was International Year of Light and Light-Based Technologies, issued by the UN back in 2015 to recognise the achievements of light science. Want to find out more and join the campaign? https://www.lightday.org/ 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

THE JOURNEY BACK HOME (Part 10)

By Carmine Rodi Falanga

This article was originally published on “To Say Nothing of the Cat”, the author’s personal blog where he explores the connections between storytelling and contemporary culture

After the Reward, the mission might seem complete. The enemy has been defeated, the treasure is taken, the (prince / princess / frog) has been kissed. The Journey is over. But is it really?

Hell, no of course! It’s time to go back home.

And that is true for two reasons: first, all the experience and the amazing revelations obtained in the adventure don’t happen for their own sake. The hero learns some very important lessons out there, but this wisdom must be brought forth, in order to produce some real heroic results (we will come to that later).

The second reason is not “secondary” at all: a basic element of storytelling is that, well, there must be somebody able to tell the story! This necessarily implies that someone must make it back home alive. Or at least, the story must – by the means of some form of communication, that is the same thing.

Many great stories actually are all about going back to where it all started. The Odyssey, for example. Ulysses had just spent 10 years fighting the war of Troy (a journey that didn’t start particularly well for him, to start with), he even had the clever idea to make the war end – in a massacre, but war is war and never changes – so one could say that his job was over there, right? No it wasn’t: the gods were not pleased yet, and Ulysses’ learning process wasn’t complete.

He needed to travel another 10 years across all the known world, meeting wonders and dangers beyond count; he needed to get lost for good, before he could find himself. And learn his final lesson about himself, love, faith and legacy.

ulysses-1954

Kirk Douglas played Ulysses in the 1954 movie.

It’s a story very similar to Dorothy’s ordeal in “The Wizard of Oz“. After a long and dangerous journey, the little girl from Kansas needs to go back home, before she can learn her lesson and say it loud:

“Oh, Aunt Em, there is no place like home!”

dorothy

This ending is quite controversial for contemporary audiences. So the point of all adventures is really, just to go back home and never want to leave again? The Wizard of Oz has been criticised by more modern commentators, and rightly so. I don’t believe that was the original meaning of that ending. But we will come to that towards the end of this post.

In “The Matrix” (1999) a different scenario is described. Neo did it: he defeated the Agents, he knows beyond doubt that he is The One. He can bend the physical laws at will! It will hardly get any cooler than that, right?

So why didn’t he just stay in the Matrix, and become the King of Everything? Live-Happily-Thereafter kind of thing? Exactly because he is a Hero, and he knows better than that. He knows that whatever he learned during his Ordeal will have to be taken back into the Ordinary World – even if it will not be easy at all:

“I know you’re out there. I can feel you now. I know that you’re afraid. You’re afraid of us. You’re afraid of change. I don’t know the future. I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it’s going to begin. I’m going to hang up this phone, and then I’m going to show these people what you don’t want them to see. I’m going to show them a world without you, a world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries, a world where anything is possible. Where we go from there, is a choice I leave to you.”

This really is a fundamental part of the narrative of the Hero’s Journey.

Whatever treasure, wealth or knowledge is found in the Journey, it must be brought back home. Doesn’t matter how. The Hero’s Journey is not a quest for selfishness, wealth, glory, or conquest – although in many cases, it can start like that. Instead, it is an adventure based on compassion, empowerment and generosity.

The Hero learns that whatever discovery or gain he has obtained, this needs to be shared. Because for him (her) ever to become a hero, it took in the first place a family, a community, friends, Mentor(s), even enemies. The Hero grows and comes to realise all this, and the way to honour this legacy is to share whatever rewards he earned.

This really is all-important. If it doesn’t happen, the Hero will become another archetype: The Fallen Angel. From Lucifer to Voldemort, from Gollum to Dracula, our collective wisdom from classic tales to contemporary pop culture is so rich with examples of heroes who get blinded with their own power (or luck), and decide to keep it for themselves.

“It is better to reign in Hell, then to serve in the Heavens” – so says Lucifer according to John Milton’s Paradise Lost, 1667. Agree?

Satan is thrown down from Heaven

Well, in real life, happy endings sometimes are hard to notice, at least in a short term perspective. But in stories, what happens is very clear: if arrogance or selfishness is the only driving force behind a Journey, the higher you rise, the deeper you will fall. And, mind you: the Journey Back Home can be in many cases a Hero’s Journey on itself. There will be thresholds to be crossed, new tests to be faced, friends and enemies… possibly even another Dark Cave (but more on this, in a later post). Probably there will be a whole cycle again. Just to underline the importance of this stage of the story. Because the decision to go back home can be hard, and as such, must be tested and tested again. At the same time, there is some good news: the Hero doesn’t have to do it all alone. Sometimes it happens that the original Hero is not the one who gets back home. See “300” for example: king Leonidas obviously dies – otherwise the story would be called “299”, I guess, and that wouldn’t sound as cool – and it is Aristodemus who will tell the story to his fellows in Sparta. Or… take “Terminator 2“: Schwarzenegger’s cyborg dies in the iconic scene with the melted steel, and it will be Sarah and the young John Connor who will live and bring the legacy forward. Maybe even too much, since it’s hard to find a sequel that is up to the standard… but that’s another story.

Being a hero is hard work and, as it happens, sometimes it requires the highest sacrifice of all. That’s how hard it gets. But what is our role in that, then? First of all, and it’s perfectly alright: to witness the events. To watch and learn. But also to carry the teachings forward. Possibly to bring it to our communities, so that they will be shared, and the next generations of heroes will know how to face those challenges and maybe, will not have to pay such a high price to complete their quests. So, in conclusion. Does “coming back home” really have to mean that the Hero goes back to the Ordinary World, and business goes back as usual? Of course not. Stories are as diverse in this, as many outcomes we can have in living the human experience. “The Lord of the Rings” provide two perfect cases to conclude our analysis: Sam and Frodo both return to the Shire, after they complete their incredible quest to deliver the One Ring to mount Doom. Film and book differ quite a bit in how this happens (mainly, in what happened in the Shire while the hobbits were gone), but one thing they get exactly in the same way: how the Journey ends for the two protagonists. Samvise‘s journey gave him self confidence and bravery beyond normal. He was able to overcome his limits so many times during his adventure, that once he is back home he knows what is left to do. He goes and proposes to the girl he loves, and they happily get married. He literally brings forward his legacy by creating a family, the wisdom he acquired will live on in his children and benefit the community.

sam

And what about Frodo, then? His story couldn’t be more different. He is also back, and he sure enjoys being back at the Shire. He goes out with his buddies at the pub, he enjoys a little bit of well earned rest.

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But his journey was a different one. He went on to explore his family’s history, to meet mistery and wonders, and after he is back, he knows things will never be the same again. His journey has changed him for good.  And – in a true hero’s way – he doesn’t blame anybody or anything for this. Things are  just different now.

It is a familiar feeling, isn’t it? After a deep transformative experience, sometimes coming back home just doesn’t feel – homey – anymore.  When that happens, we must face it. So does our Frodo. It is not without tears that he bids farewell to his friends at the Grey Heavens, when he decides to leave with Gandalf and go beyond the sea. New adventures will await for him there, possibly danger too, but that is what Frodo decides to do, after he knows that his life at the Shire will never be as before. He doesn’t know where is his place. But he knows it’s not there anymore.

Departure at the Grey Havens, by Ted Nasmith

Departure at the Grey Havens, by Ted Nasmith

And that concludes this part of the story. Going back home is a fundamental part of any story, because it’s there that the experience is transformed into learning, and can be transmitted. This is how human culture developed. There are many possible ways how this can happen; the story can be told by the same Hero in person, or by someone (or something) else. Immediately after, or in some other time. This doesn’t matter. What matters is that the story will be shared. Because, and that really is at the foundation of any storytelling: a story is not a story, until it’s told.

Please note! Rescogita doesn’t own the pictures used in this article. They are shared under fair use for educational purposes. All rights belong to the respective owners.

Eid-Al-Fitr, Eid Mubarak!

Eid Mubarak! To all Muslim believers, as Ramadan comes to an end for this year, Allah’s revelation of the Quran was duly celebrated, and the fasting period ends. Time now to celebrate to meet beloved friends and families and thank Allah for the reflections and learnings of the past month, gratitude for what we have and to share ith those in need by making the Zakat-al-Fitr a symbolic tax obligatory donation to give to charity, as it is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, and besides this many volunteer in shelters, soup kitchens or personally hand out charity to the less fortunate ones. Following this principle Eid-Al-Fitr is also a day for presents, children get eidia gift such as money and sweets, which are also exchanged between neighbours, friends and why not perfect strangers too. This night will be lit with fireworks, laughter and a celebratory mood across the Islamic world, and so we say onto you, Eid Mubarak! 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

Mother’s Day

“Thank you!” is a very good sentence to start this day, actually the most appropriate one to honour the strongest of the generative and caring archetype, that of the mother, the giver of life, the nurturing being thanks to whom we exist in this world and universe. 

A celebration of that inborn nature that increase the capacity of love, selflessness and care that knows no equals in human feelings, honoured since the dawn of time when referring to earth or nature as a mother, of goddesses, until our days associating this word with all that embeds unbound and generative love. We are habitual creatures, and tend often to take for granted the good things that happen in our lives until we stop noticing them. Let this day be the one that reminds us of that borderless love that shone light onto our hearts. 

“There is nothing as powerful as mother’s love, and nothing as healing as a child’s soul.”

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

THE REWARD (Part 9)

By Carmine Rodi Falanga

This article was originally published on “To Say Nothing of the Cat”, the author’s personal blog where he explores the connections between storytelling and contemporary culture

It is done! We faced our deepest fear, entered the Cave, killed the dragon. We didn’t even think it was possible but – here we are. We almost cannot believe it ourselves, but we did it! While we catch our breath and review the experience, we take a moment to consider all the steps that were necessary for us to get to this point. How was it even possible? Do we remember how different we were, when we started the journey?

And maybe even most importantly, one question arises – now what?

If the “Challenge” (The Dark Cave) is a crucial moment in every story, what follows is probably even more meaningful for the audience. It’s time to take a moment and rest. Talk to our companions about what just happened. Remember and honour what has been lost. And reap the fruit of our efforts. It is a moment of relief, of celebration, and very meaningfully – of reflection and learning.

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In “Star Wars: A new Hope” (1977) Luke really gets the full package. Gets new powers, escapes with his friends to tell the story, and even kisses the princess. Except, she is his sister.

In Star Wars, Luke saves the proverbial princess and all the company safely escapes from the Death Star. Mission accomplished, now it’s time to relax! Not for everybody: while Han Solo takes his reward and leaves (only to come back later and save the day), Luke understands his victory is actually only a beginning. They have no time to rest, and in the rebel base they assemble to prepare the final battle plan to take down the Death Star. The lesson he learned from Obi-Wan will be crucial for him, in his most desperate moment. Similarly, in “The Matrix” the first victory of Neo opens a whole new world of opportunities for him. He starts to believe that yes, he could be “The Chosen One”. To know for sure, he sets to meet the Oracle (which is another important stage of the Journey: more on that, later).

“Do not try and bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead… only try to realize the truth. There is no spoon”. “The Matrix” (1999) is really much more than just a successful sci-fi movie.

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Games also make of this part, a crucial element. The reward mechanism is an essential component in the experience of every good game. And this has nothing to do with age: when we play, we all love the thrill and the excitement that come from it (a very common criticism towards games and gaming is that “they are for children, adults don’t play games”. Well, who says that has clearly never been to Las Vegas!)

Why is that? Science provides very useful explanations, although some are still more in the field of hypothesis. When we feel a sense of achievement, several receptors in our brain and in other areas of our organism are stimulated and produce dopamine. This substance seems to be very important for us: it brings excitement, motivates us to action, improves motor skills, has effects even on our immune system. It creates sexual arousement (and also, by the way, makes us pee more). Doesn’t seem to make us happy (researchers still don’t agree on this), but it surely seems to make us feel proud. And this is interesting: the more unexpected a reward is, the more dopamine we produce. We get a stronger kick by a success when we didn’t see it coming. And also importantly: when we don’t get what we deserve, our dopamine drops below standard level.

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And we might have to go a long way to find the treasure we seek. But it’s necessary, as some things just belong in a museum and cannot just fall in the wrong hands. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981).

What can we make of all this? Rewards are, apparently, very important for our wellbeing. Evolutionary mechanisms wanted us to be hard-wired to them. We need to achieve something, in order to feel good. And that’s not enough, we always need to achieve greater and greater things. Our whole organism call for it, and since dopamine impacts on our reproduction, we can conclude that the reward mechanism has an effect on our whole species. But… what if games become an addiction? And they will completely take over, so that our life will completely be organised and run by them? It’s worth reflecting on this dystopian possibilities, as “Black Mirror” does oh-so-well. Yes, it is that important.

It’s only natural then that such a crucial part of our life experience finds its way into the stories of all cultures, from the most ancient in traditions, to the contemporary ones. Good stories warn us, and there are two main teachings we can take from them:

1 – after achievement, there must be celebration. We fought for it, we deserve it, we have to have it. Without it, our whole experience would feel empty and depress us, instead of inspire us to more and greater actions. Our society is certainly messing with this aspect so much: there are a lot of achievements around that don’t get the reward they would deserve; and at the same time there is a lot of celebration happening, without a reason! These two elements together contribute to a general feeling of lack of direction and depression, at a society level. And again, games are so good at this. Videogames, even better, because they can provide very powerful and multi sensorial stimuli. In a good game, for every single achievement you obtain, you unlock some kind of rewards. From smaller, trivial ones (such as little pop-up balloons, stars, little but so gratifying +1 icons…) – to really EPIC ones, like new worlds unlocked, level ups, treasure and so on. Heh. Have you ever played Farmville or a similar browser game? Do you find them really addictive? Here is why.

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Scott Pilgrim vs the world” (2010) is a marvel. A comic book-turned movie which is all the time referring to videogame in the structure of its storytelling. Here, Scott has just levelled up.

2 – The second learning we can get from The Reward is that celebration can be as wild as it gets – but it has to include somehow a moment of learning, growth, the understanding that we have somehow reached a higher state. Otherwise it’s just partying for the sake of it, of course not a bad thing – but it doesn’t lead us anywhere, if not in bed with a terrible hangover the next day. Learning, vision, growth, motivation, physical reward (yes, also sexual – we will come to that later in our Journey) must be the real rewards. And how do we make them more meaningful? They have to be recognised by the others. Especially the elders, or the leaders. In other words, it’s not just enough that I achieve the victory or kill the dragon. It’s important that everybody sees it. That’s why the social aspect is also fundamental. A party, why not. Invite everybody to acknowledge that you made it.

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Say what you will, but Bilbo Baggins knows how to throw a party. (“The Fellowship of the Ring“, 2001)

Again, this is one aspect that games manage to catch particularly well. Games are social experiences by definition. And if you believe that videogames are for loners, think again: modern games are more and more centred around communities, that live and thrive on their own virtual “canteens” like forums, wikis, social media etc where they gather to share stories, help each other, banter, have the occasional bar fight. They may not meet in person (although sometimes they do), but the feeling of community is definitely there.

In conclusion: are we giving the right importance to this element of our own (and our people’s) personal stories? Do we celebrate, when we earn the right to do it? Do we share the rewards with other people, so the meaning is recognised as it deserves? Do we assist other people so their victories, their achievements, feel as important, and epic, as they should? I believe these are central questions for our society. More and more, as traditional ways of marking growth and life stages (such as rites of passage) are being erased from our cultures. As leaders, parents, teachers, educators, or maybe just as self-aware members of our communities, our role is to bring this superb element of storytelling and games, back where it belongs: in our everyday life.

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The iconic claiming of Excalibur, from Disney’s “The Sword in the stone” (1963)

Please note! Rescogita doesn’t own the pictures used in this article. They are shared under fair use for educational purposes. All rights belong to the respective owners.

World Migratory Bird Day:

Sing, fly, soar – like a bird

“Sing, Fly, Soar – Like a Bird!” is this year’s theme of the World Migratory Bird Day 2021, to celebrate the glory, resilience and importance of avian life and their seasonal migrations across the world, and who are endangered by humanity’ negative impact on the environment. Specifically the topic will be Bird Song and Bird Flight, aiming at bringing our communities to join, celebrate and renew the effort of protecting our flying friends and especially their habitats. Migratory birds are living connections between different places and habitats across the planet. Coming and leaving from our cities, wetlands, shores and hills. Interesting enough the current pandemic period already has a scientific name, the “anthropause”, otherwise the shut down of human activity and positive health benefits of the global shut down. So we invite you to find events near you and discover more by visiting https://www.worldmigratorybirdday.org/ and join the campaign!

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

Happy Easter to all Orthodox Christians

Happy Easter to all Orthodox Christians out there, as a month ago we already explored the meaning of Easter for Christianity, which of course remains unchanged, today we are gong to explore Easter traditions popular among Slavic cultures, specifically Russia, as this was the most resilient celebration that managed to continue even through Soviet state atheism, marking once more its value and importance on the Christian calendar. 

The day before Easter is also the last day of Lent foresees a day-long fasting while cooking the delicacies that will be served on Easter day for the enjoyment of the whole family, and colouring boiled eggs. Once that is accomplished and the house is thoroughly clean , churches host night services and at midnight the priest announces the resurrection saying the formula that is a popular greeting on this day “Christ has Risen” to which the faithful reply “He truly has risen”. It actually is considered a must, if someone says to you “Christ has RIsen” to reply “He truly has risen” and then kiss three times. The first week after Easter is considered holy, during this period church services are held with their holy doors open—symbolizing Christ opening the kingdom of heaven to all people. In fact, the 40-day period between Easter and Ascension Day is referred to as paschal.  

Once again, Happy Easter!

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

THE DARK CAVE (Part 8)

By Carmine Rodi Falanga

This article was originally published on “To Say Nothing of the Cat”, the author’s personal blog where he explores the connections between storytelling and contemporary culture

This is it. It’s the darkest hour. The scariest of our fears. It’s when the danger becomes real.

In the narrative of “The Hero’s Journey“, there is a moment when all the testing and training is over, and things become serious, very serious. This stage was also called by Joseph Campbell “The Ordeal“, an old English term that etymologically means “judgement”, or “that which is dealt out” (by the gods, or fate).

That’s because this is the first time when the characters encounter real danger, including the possibility of physical harm or death, and only by proving their worth they can progress in their journey. For the first time here, real failure is a possibility. Once the cave is entered, there is no turning back. But that’s exactly the point, because without fear, there is no challenge. And without it, there will be no real learning experience.

That’s the main philosophy behind this stage of the Journey.

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It is a very complex stage, dealing with our deepest fears, weaknesses, with our demons – and possibly with having to look into our most intimate soul. It’s a moment of truth, when all the preparation and the training is defined by success – or not – in a decisive test. It’s also the situation in which the Hero, probably for the first time, starts believing in him / herself. And all this would not be possible without the fear and the self-doubt of the approaching phase. Because ultimately, in the Dark Cave we don’t really defeat a dragon or some ghost, but we defeat our own limits – to overcome them, and open to a new stage of existence. In the stories, this moment is usually represented as a real “cave”. A dark, mysterious, hostile place. Probably inhabited by strange and dangerous creatures.

Star Wars will be again our first example. When he is captured by the Death Star, the young Luke Skywalker has just begun his training as a Jedi and is not ready to face Darth Vader in a duel. That part will be taken by Obi-Wan Kenobi. Instead, he and his companions sneak through a maze of corridors, looking for the cell where the Princess Leia Organa is held captive. Using a combination of deceit, wits and fighting skills, they manage to find her, only to face a bigger problem: how to escape?

And that’s how they end up in a “garbage compactor“. That’s literally our Dark Cave. A small, claustrophobic room full with litter, stinky, and probably populated by some other creature?

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Luke: “There’s something alive in here!”

When the walls start to move to terminally compress the garbage (and our heroes), Luke for the first time faces the possibility of a premature and very definitive end for his quest. It will be only with the help of his droid friends, who hack the base computers, that he will be able to make it out alive. And later in the saga, Luke is completing his training as a Jedi with Master Yoda and has only one test to pass: to enter a “dark cave” (really? really!) on planet Dagobah. He claims that he is not afraid, but the wise master knows better, and warns him: As Luke will have to find out, the scariest enemy to defeat in the cave is not the Dark Knight, but… only himself.

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Skywalker’s face into Darth Vader’s mask. Quite the prophetic sight.

Meet The Dragons.

In many mythologies, the Ordeal is represented by a Dragon (which may or may not live in a… cave).

It’s easy to understand why: a monstrous creature, giant reptile (commonly associated to greed, deceipt, poison), able of great destruction. Their skin is protected by tough scales, hard to penetrate (symbolising the difficulty of the challenge). It’s able to inspire fear, and can (according to different traditions) kill with just one poisonous bite, or with its fiery breath.

It’s interesting how this archetype is present in so many different cultures. It’s probably an element of proto Indo-European religion, from which it spread to Greece and Caucasus (and later, Europe including Scandinavia and Britain) and to China. A snake tempted Adam and Eve, causing their fall from Eden. Poor reptiles, such a bad reputation.

In the German / Norse tradition, one famous dragon is Fafnir. Originally a powerful and proud Dwarf (or Giant), son of gods himself, Fafnir was corrupted by his greed for treasure, and turned into a poisonous giant dragon.  The hero Sigurd will kill him using a combination of might and intelligence, and following the advice of the god Odin. We will discuss extensively The Reward in the next chapter of our story; however, after slaying the dragon, Sigurd will drink his blood and become able to understand the language of the birds; will recover the legendary Ring of Nibelungs; and will also meet Brunhild (after crossing a fire wall, another universal symbol for a challenge), but that’s another story, and we will tell it another time.

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Fafnir or Fafner is the dragon in Wagner’s “The ring of Nibelungs”

It is clear how this story is mirrored in “The Hobbit“, by J.R.R. Tolkien – and the following cinematographic version by Peter Jackson: once again we have a Dragon guarding a fabulous treasure, a powerful magic Ring, and an unlikely hero who manages to do it all, even if with just a little bit of supernatural help.Not only the Dragon, but also Gollum have many traits in common with the original Fafnir from Nordic legends.

In modern popular culture, Fafnir has had a very long life, and he far from being forgotten. 

FAFNIR will strike soon! Who can save us? But of course…

Of course Odin will send his son Thor to defeat him! Thor and Fafnir didn’t have an opportunity to meet, according to the original tradition. It’s interesting that “WARUM” in Germans means: “Why?”

And the same story continues to live through all the media: in “Django Unchained” (2012) the dentist / mentor / bounty hunter Doctor Schultz tells the story of how Siegfried rescued his Brunhilde, killing the dragon. A very attentive Django listens to him, while they are sitting around the fire.

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The reference is actually made obvious by same Tarantino, when he makes Doctor Schultz say: “When a German meets a real-life Siegfried, it’s kind of a big deal”.

His beloved girls is (coincidence, coincidence!) called Broomhilda and (coincidence, coincidence!) can speak German. And to save her, blood will be shed – well… being a Tarantino movie, this shouldn’t

In the Japanese mythology, Yamata no Orochi is the legendary dragon with 8 heads and 8 tails that is defeated by Susanoo, the god of thunder.

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Yamata defeated by Susanoo – God of thunder, just like Thor? Mmmmm now this cannot be a coincidence, can it? He is described as “an eight-forked head and an eight-forked tail; its eyes were red, like the winter-cherry; and on its back firs and cypresses were growing. As it crawled it extended over a space of eight hills and eight valleysAfter killing him”. That’s as big as it gets. Yes, the seed was planted for the later Godzilla.

However, by killing the dragon, from the spike of the 4th tail the legendary sword Kusanagi was forged. The legendary sword is still revered as one of the three Imperial Regalia of Japan. A mirror, for Wisdom. A jewel, for Benevolence. A sword, for Valor. Their current location or existance is unknown.

And a famous dragon is also found in an early Christian tradition. Such a monster was terrorising the city of Silene in Lybia, when the valorous Cappadocian knight George rode by. He decided to take the quest to kill the beast. And so he did, breaking his own lance against the creature’s hard scales, and ultimately finishing it off with a blow of his magic sword Ascalon. He also rescued a princess, but the Christian chronicles don’t say much about what happened between them – George was destined to become a Saint, after all.

Another version of the story reports that St. George only tamed the Dragon, without killing it. He brought it back to the city, where people were (rightfully) terrified by its approach. The valiant George called out to them, saying that if they consented to become Christians and be baptised, he would slay the dragon before them. The king and the people of Silene accepted: 15 thousand people were converted, George became saint, and the dragon was finally slain. Ahem… quite controversial, talking about the use of weapons of mass destruction to spread religion. But anyway.

St George kills the Dragon, by Paolo Uccello.

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The story has had a tremendous impact and continues to echo on Western culture. It originated from the early Christian kingdoms of the area of Caucasus, but it spread to Europe and became one of the most popular traditions in the Age of Chivalry, helped by the spread of Christianity due to the Crusades (and the strong need for good propaganda stories that came with them). Many artists gave their interpretation of the story, including Raphael and Dalì.Salvador Dalì’s vision of the legend (1971) Saint George is still nowadays the national hero and Saint of Georgia, which goes by his name (the one in Caucasus, not America), and also bears the emblem of the battle in its national coat of arms,

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Georgia’s national emblem.

Saint George’s cross (red cross on white field) is also the symbol on the English flag, and Winston Churchill wanted to name Ascalon his personal airplane during world war II.

The model Avro 685 York remained in active service until 1957.

Saint George’s Day (23rd of April) is celebrated as Christian religious holiday in many countries in the world, including Russia, Canada, England, Spain. So – what is the importance of entering the dark cave, and if necessary, finding and killing the beast that lurks within?

Clearly, it’s an universal story of challenging our own limits and fears, and by doing it, getting stronger and wiser. All the stories include – after overcoming the Ordeal – a Reward of some kind. This is the fundamental lesson to be learnt by this stage: without challenge, without fear (even), there can be no gain. Experience comes when we stretch our comfort zone, often to the point where it starts to hurt. We are naturally afraid of what we don’t know, of what seems beyond our capacities. The stories of so many legendary heroes and gods are there to tell us exactly this: to be afraid of a test is not cowardice: it’s basically human. But what makes us better, close to Gods, is when we find the necessary inspiration and defeat our “enemies”. The “Enthusiasm” that comes after an achievement? From Greek, “enthusiasm” means literally “to receive God inside”. We get closer to Divinity when we do our best, and we deserve to celebrate.

In conclusion: two are the main elements to remember from “The Dark Cave”.

  1.  a Cave must be dark, dangerous and mysterious. Without these elements, there is no challenge, and therefore there can be no real learning or achievement. It’s a central question for all those who are involved in education: tests must be real, to be effective. Challenges must be hard, and include the possibility of real failure. By making them softer, by turning our tests into hyper-protected, standard and empty rituals done just for statistics, tests become useless, and we don’t pay homage to the glorious tradition of heroes who inspire us with their great accomplishments.
  2. Celebration after Achievement. Entering a Dark Cave and slaying the dragon (or the Minotaur, see before) there is hard work, that deserves celebration and recognition by society. Earning a diploma just to hear people say “and so what?” can destroy one’s motivation, maybe forever. It is indeed one of the reasons why traditional education shows more and more its limits, and drop-out increases rapidly in many countries. Goals must be fair but hard, and when reached, they must bring with them prize and glory. Yes, possibly even a Charming Prince or Princess.
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If this is not happening – we are defeating the purpose of education, again. And this might explain why so many (young) people, not finding their own life and career satisfying enough, start looking for rewards in the wrong places: alcohol, binging, gambling, drug abuse, etc. In other words, a society based on Achievements without (the deserved) Celebrations brings as a consequence a lot of empty Celebration, without any particular Achievement to give it a meaning.

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Thank you for being with us! Next chapter will be all dedicated to Celebration and Rewards! Stay with us!

Please note! Rescogita doesn’t own the pictures used in this article. They are shared under fair use for educational purposes. All rights belong to the respective owners.

Labour Day – Working Towards Our Species’ Future

From slavery to serfdom we have made gigantic steps in terms of worker’s rights, up to including the right to a dignifying work into the Charter of Human Rights, we indeed took our time, and the struggles undertaken by our ancestors and still occurring in many corners of the world as still a current issue, lets not deny it, as well, lets understand that just like democracy workers’ rights are something to constantly safeguard and keep an eye on, in order not to step back into a past with more uncertainties, exploitation and poverty for many. So on the one hand we need to protect the rights we gained and on the other look forward towards what is the next step, what do we wish to gain more, what do we, in our present global and interconnected culture need? And how do we do so in a regenerative and sustainable way, so that our labour would benefit us, our communities and the non-human world as a whole? Just to mention two of the main trends on our planet today:

Work life balance – quoting an old proverb “Do we work to live or live to work?” one of the first union slogans used to be 888, 8 hours of work, 8 of sleep, 8 for leisure, in order to have a balanced life not centred only on work, therefore the right to have a meaningful life also outside the professional sphere. 

Meaning-Making – The millennial generation seems unhappy with a job that merely provides the material means to get through life such as a salary. There is a wish of a meaning that goes beyond the monthly money, a meaningful and engaging profession. How many jobs exist today which are completely meaningless and actually have no real meaning or purpose? You’d be surprised by the answer. 

Our offer is that of focusing on social sustainability as the next step of worker’s rights, meaning a profession that provides material means to live a fulfilling life, that is also an opportunity for community building, that shares a feeling, as well as tangible practices, that the work that is carried out is meaningful and impactful for the workers, the community and the biosphere, fostering economic, social and technological development for all. Utopia, or worth giving it a shot?

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

Beltane – Life is a celebration

Beltane is a very ancient festival, likely lost somewhere in the mist of times among North-West European peoples and cultures and to this day celebrated in the Gaelic lands as a Spring festival and much revived by Wiccan believers. Beltaine translates as Bright-Fire or as the Good Fire. Large brights fires are lit on this night to honour the sun and cast away the night’s darkness, calling for the sun to warm, protect and shield the community and its crops. The brighter and taller the fire the greater the community honour the sun, a single and bright bonfire to shine through the night, while the community jumped across the fire to purify and couples jumped hand i hand to bless their union, animals were carried across the dense smoke for fertility and diseases protection, and then the ashes of the great bonfire were divided among the worshippers as a talisman for the rest of the year. 

This is a spring festival, halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice, mostly across the Celtic heritage people of the British isles, now spread worldwide , celebrated on the 1st of May, as the official start of summer, with rituals like we mentioned above to protect fields, cattle and humans as the pastoral season begins. The keyword to this day’s celebration is optimism, and an optimistic look towards the future. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

Lag B’Omer

Today is an important Jewish holiday, just in between Passover and Shavuot and a break from mourning of the Omer. A propitious day for weddings (the only day during the Omer when they are allowed)  light bonfires and getting haircuts. Just a little preamble, Omer is a time of mourning and grief, in remembrance of a time in the past when a plague killed most of Rabbi Akiva’s students as divine punishment for lacking respect.  This was a time when Rabbi Aiva led a rebellion and yet unsuccessful rebellion against the Roman yoke leaving thousands of casualties, therefore, it could be that the “Plague” was the Roman occupation that left so many youths lying cold on the battlefield. 

The survivors went into hiding, prayer and contemplation and it is believe that this was the time the resplendent Zohar was written and created as grounds for the mystic Kabbalah. 

The tradition on this day is to go outdoors, plant trees, light bonfires in remembrance of the light Simeon Bar Yohai brought to the world, and is also a very popular date for weddings. Although perhaps not one of the most important celebrations in Judaism is it indeed a noteworthy one to feel the pulse of community and communion with earth, resonating ancient traditions and with a foothold adapting to the present. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

Holy Friday

As we explored in our previous article on Good Friday, it holds the same meaning across the whole of Christianity regardless if Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant, therefore today in wishing well to all Orthodox Christians, we want to stress Holy Friday traditions and customs across Orthodox Christian believers.  For this reason we shall travel to Greece today. As in all Christianity Good Friday, or Holy Friday is a day of mourning and a national holiday, the Divine Liturgy is not read, and everywhere flags and hung in mourning, and throughout the day the church bells ring in a sad low tones as they do at funerals. The strongest believers and followers will fast during the day, and those who don’t will have a very austere and simple meals. Women and children carry flowers to  the churches to begin decorating the Epitaphio which symbolises the sepulchre and priests perform the mourning service of lamentation to cry the death of Christ. The images, once decorated with flowers are taken in procession through the streets and pass through the cemetery as the community follows in silence carrying candles. Thus begins the spiritual preparation for Easter. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach.

World Day for Safety and Health at Work

We are proud to join and support the global campaign for safety and health at work. As well as to take a minute, especially this year, to honour and remember all the workers victims of occupational accidents and diseases, both due to accidental tragedies but also due to negligence which could and should have been prevented. Our thoughts here go to all the essential workers, starting from hospitals all the way to supermarkets and distribution who duly kept coming to their workplace while the rest of us endured lockdowns and quarantines, often putting themselves at risk, willingly or not, and still exposing themselves to the dangers of contagion to keep up some elements of normality, up to the food supply chain and rescue of the sick. Having said that, besides expressing gratitude and sorrow for the lost and ruined lives, we would like to stress the need and desire for better quality labour measures across the world, giant leaps have been made already, so why stop now? That is why we proudly join the choir of voices around the International Labour Organisation in promoting a safety and health culture at work places and proactively help bringing to life strategies to strengthen national occupational safety and health, grounded on crisis anticipation rather than management.  

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

Mahavir Jayanti

Best wishes to all Jain followers and believers celebrating today The Birth Of The 24th Tirthankar – Mahavir Jayanti. 

There was a time when the world was a really unfair place, made of few rich and starving masses, and Mahavira, set up a mission to end injustice and inequality and on this day he was born. On the day of his birth Jain faithful and followers believe that all the area around turned into a lush garden and all people could feel was serenity and peace, that even the Gods descended from Heaven to bless the child and revere him, while bathing the newborn naming him Mahavira and Vardhaman. 

Upon leaving his home he meditated under a tree for 12 years reaching enlightenment and then set off to travel across India to rid it of false believes, and replace them with ethics, morality and honesty, preaching non-violence, and acquiring virtue through meditation and fasting. 

Today is a major celebration for all Jains, to be reminded of Mahavir’s teachings and guidance, and one of the most beautiful aspects is that this day is marked with charitable deeds to gain the blessings of liberation and feed the needy. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach.

Happy Birthday Hanuman

Hanuman Jayanti celebrates the birth of Hindu God Hanuman, although there is not really a fixed date that celebrates Hanuman the divinity that oversees victory against evil and protection, today is one of those days. Regardless all Hindu believers celebrate his birth. The purpose of this celebration is to ask Hanuman for protection and blessings by gathering at temples and making offerings, n turn receiving sweets, flowers, fruits, holy ash and holy water from the priests. While at home and communities the day is crowned with prayers and hymns and readings from the Ramayana and Mahabharata . This date is indeed one of the most important in the Hindu calendar, as this month also sees the largest festival in honour of Lord Rama, and the bond between Rama and Hanuman is one of the strongest, the latter could even turn into a weapon for Rama’s use, capable to mov mountains and seize clouds. So, lets all wish him happy birthday at sunrise today.  

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

FRIENDS AND FOES AND THOSE IN BETWEEN (Part 7)

By Carmine Rodi Falanga

This article was originally published on “To Say Nothing of the Cat”, the author’s personal blog where he explores the connections between storytelling and contemporary culture

Often, the most exciting part of a story is when the “company of heroes” is formed. Many of such names are so iconic that have become symbols in their own right, so that just mentioning one of those legendary groups carries meaning beyond the simple sound of the words: “The Fellowship of the Ring“, “The Argonauts“, “The Fantastic Four“, “The Avengers“, and so on. There is something indeed legendary about a group of different characters who come together, by choice or fate, and accomplish a collective heroic task. This post is dedicated to them. In some cases it is clear that one of the characters has a prominent role and is the main Protagonist of the story. “Jason and the Argonauts”, “Robin Hood and the Merrymen”, are good examples of such type. Other stories are more centred on a collective of characters as such (“Ghostbusters”, “The X-Men”), where different stories take place and coexist, composing a mosaic of personalities which contribute all together to a main, wider storyline.

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“Ghostbusters”, 1984. Second-best movie of ’84 according to Rotten Tomatoes.  Initially the concept for the movie included also John Belushi and Eddie Murphy in leading roles. It would have been a very different story.

This element does not correspond to a particular stage of the Journey. It’s rather distributed across several of them. It probably belongs to the “Road of Trials“, and that’s why I decided to discuss it now, although in the majority of cases the Hero starts meeting the other characters of the story since the very beginning, and this will go on until the end. The common element that emerges, however, is that “no-one can do it alone”. Whatever the task or the quest, a fundamental part of the learning path represented by the Hero’s Journey consists in learning that we are never really alone, and one of the learning dimensions that the Hero must face in order to achieve success in their quest will be related to his/her social environment. There can be several layers or meaning in this: is the Quest related to the social sphere of the Protagonist? Than maybe the main learning points will be related to his/her relationships with other people, and this aspect of the Journey will actually be greatly emphasised.

“The Wizard of Oz”, 1939. Dorothy’s daughter (Liza Minnelli) will marry the Tin Man’s son (Jack Haley’s jr), in 1974. He did have a heart, after all.

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A Christmas Carol“, the classic novel by Charles Dickens, describes such a story. Ebenezer Scrooge is a solitary, old and dry man, who doesn’t expect much from life anymore. But he unexpectedly takes a path of learning and growing that will bring him to face several challenges, all connected to his social sphere and to the people he is in connection with. He will have to re-invent his relationships to life, work, family and values, in order to complete is transformation arc.

Another good example of this is “Mary Poppins” (1964), which is not really a story about the famous, super cool if a bit edgy Nanny or the lovely kids; more deeply, it describes the learning and experiential process that both parents have to go through, to re-establish harmony in their family (as it’s made very explicit in “Saving Mr. Banks“, 2013).

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the Banks family in “Mary Poppins”, 1964. Mr Banks works… in a bank. Wouldn’t you know.

There are many other cases in which this may be less obvious, but possibly even more powerful. In “Forrest Gump” (1994) the main character, played by Tom Hanks, is often considered “stupid” or “odd” by the people he meets. But through interacting with him, they will experience a transformational arc that will make it possible for them to develop a more healthy relationship with the social sphere, and even with themselves. The two most spectacular cases are probably the Lieutenant Dan, played by Gary Sinise who by meeting Forrest will be able to heal the broken connection to his family heritage, society in general and with his own identity, until he experiences a proper “Death and Rebirth” (which will be discussed in a future post). See also the story of Jenny, played by Robin Wright (who more recently went on living in a much more ambitious house), but in 1994 looked like this: 

“Sometimes there aren’t enough rocks”

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Jenny also starts her own journey with a dysfunctional relationship to her father and family and lives all her life engaged in border line relationships and behaviours, until she – allowing herself to enter in a more authentic connection with Forrest – finally finds her own full redemption and the love she always missed. Family, community, personal identity. By meeting different characters during the Journey, the Hero has the opportunity to explore this elements of his (her) own personal story. The counterparts act in truth as “mirrors”, and as such allow the Protagonist to see more clearly reflected some aspects of their own existence. In many cases this can also be represented by a natural element, such as an Animal. In this case

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“Alice in Wonderland”, 1951. The movie became very popular in the 70s because of the… psychedelic nature of the story, and was re-released in 1974. Alice needs to re-establish a connection with her less rational side, and get rid of some of the pressure imposed by the rigid Victorian English society of the time.

This is why many of the most successful couples hero-companion in all times are composed by a person, and an animal (or mythical creature). We are not talking of a coincidence. Many stories are indeed about the universal topic of “discovering our own nature” and getting more in touch with it: Shrek and Donkey, from “Shrek”, 2001Hercules first meets Pegasus in “Hercules”, 1997 Bastian finally meets Falkor in “The Neverending Story”, 1984

So, as said before in this chapter we try to analyse the different cathegories or archetypes  of characters that the main Hero can meet in the Journey. The list will never be fully exhaustive but I will try anyway. We have already discussed the Messenger  and the Mentor in previous posts of this blog.

The Friend / Ally

This is probably the most traditional, the one we all would expect. Nobody can do it all alone, and the Hero must first find some allies to proceed in the Quest.

Frodo and Sam from the “Lord of the rings” trilogy (2001-2003). It has been included in the “Top 10 Movie Bromances” by TIME Magazine. It’s a sign of the times.

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Of course there can be endless variation on this universal topic. From the true, unconditioned and loyal friendship of Sam and Frodo the Hobbits, to more subtle examples that contain substories, like the “Friend in Need

who will need to receive some assistance before he / she can develop their full potential. In this sense their stories crosses with the “Crossing the Threshold” phase, in that a test must be passed, before the Ally can reveal as such. Remember in fact that in the same story multiple thresholds can be crossed, each connected to different stages of the Journey and probably with different levels of reward and disclosure. To help a friend in need is often not a problem. For some of us, giving is honestly receiving. There is a high level of self-fulfillment in helping out someone, and it makes us feel… like the hero of the day. We know that. But then, what about asking for help? For many of us, asking is much harder. So maybe this is the lesson to learn at this stage. There is nothing wrong in asking for help to our friends, when we feel we are facing a problem that is too big for us. And it will happen, sooner or later, to all of us. Even when we think we are completely alone, there might be someone for us, just where we are not looking.It happens to all our favourite heroes, from time to time. Batman would have been lost in many occasions without Robin, Oracle, or even the human, very human Commissioner Gordon. And he is the Lonely Knight. So why should we feel any less?

The Romantic Interest

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Superman needs all his super powers to win the romantic challenge with Lois Lane

Now, this is one of those cases in which Hollywood movies don’t always make a great service to the art of storytelling. This can be a very important part of any story. Aren’t love and relationships great growing processes for all of us? There can be nothing more challenging, indeed, than opening ourselves to another individual, and letting him or her under our guard, exposing ourselves totally. And be ready to do the some for the Relevant Other. To love unconditionally, without judgement, with our full self.It can be – and in fact, often is – the main challenge of the whole plot. Romantic comedies movies are all revolving about two people looking for each other, getting closer, then losing each other, than finally meeting in the final climax. We will discuss in more detail the importance of this element when discussing “Meeting the Divinity”, also. In fact, to meet another person and feel that he/she is our “soulmate” is an experience that can be nothing short of divine. And many legends are there to remind us that our soul misses a piece, and that life is indeed about looking for our missing half. The most ancient in western civilization is from Plato’s “The Symposium“. Well, believe what you will, but there is a lot to learn from this. I will just leave it at that

The joker / trickster

Now this is a good one. Even in the dirtiest, testosterone-full macho action movies from the 80s, the Hero had to have a good sidekick.

“Conan the Barbarian” from 1982 is a real masterpiece. Nothing to do with the unfortunate reboot from 2011 with the big guy from Game of Thrones Jason Momoa.

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A joker along the main character is important for comic relief, which is also a basic narrative mechanism: the audience cannot hold their breath for longer than that, and everybody appreciates a laughter even in the most dramatic stories. However, this presence actually pays tribute to a much, much nobler and ancient wisdom. Originally, the “Trickster” is a very important archetype, present in almost every myth and culture. It was truly worshipped as a God: Hermes/Mercury for Greeks and Romans, Loki for the Norse, Anansi in the West African / Caribbean, the Coyote spirit in Navajo and other native American nations, Set for the Egyptians.

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Anansi is a man-spider, prototype of all tricksters. What? He indeed appears as an alternate Spider Man in the Marvel Earth-7082.

Because that is one quality in human nature that we, after all, admire and respect. The use of wits, ingenuity, skills and common sense to overcome the problems. It is one element that surely led the human species to be at the peak of their evolution. Yes, everybody likes and respects the powerful warriors and the wise leaders. But from time to time, we need to deploy other talents, too, if we want to win our most important battles. the Trojan Horse used in “Troy”, 2004. Nowadays they would probably use it in Brussels. And so, important traces of this archetype remain also in contemporary and popular storytelling. There is an important lesson to learn from this, too: that sometimes it’s really OK to let things go out of our control. We believe and act as if all our world should always be in order, under tight control. We pretend, because in fact, it’s not. The healing, liberating power of the trickster is just there: with a paradox, to show everybody that the king is naked, and that the reality can really, just be just a joke sometimes.

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The Comedian is in fact one of the most dramatic characters in “Watchmen”.

And what a relief, to allow ourselves to laugh and breath, sometimes! To remind ourselves the innocent pleasure of fun and games. Of being free from responsibilities, childish and free like children at play. Yes, it can be a destructive power sometimes (see Arlequin, Loki, Set: often this figure was also associated with fire and with the power of chaos), but nevertheless is one important aspect of the human nature, and one we need to learn to deal with, in the course of our heroic quest.

The Shapeshifter

Often connected to the Trickster, but not exactly the same, I want to dedicate a short paragraph also to this figure.

Things are not always what they seem. And so are people – and so are we.

We can be honest and insincere; courageous and fearful; generous and selfish; responsible and coward. We can act as adults and children. Wise and fools. Men and women. Good and evil. The opposites can exist together, and indeed exist together, in each of us.

This takes shape into the… shapeshifter, exactly. It’s a character that literally transforms into something else

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for example a human who turns into a beast

“Beast”, or Henry Mc Coy, as appears in the “X-Men” movies. Here played by Kelsey Grammer.

and is able to use the best abilities of both forms – only, sometimes he is not and can lose control.

and Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in “The Origins: Wolverine”, 2009. Which is not the worst Marvel movie ever, thanks to both Thor and Captain America.

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Or it’s simply a person who is never what it seems, always ready to swing from one side to another, change faction, change opinion, even in open betrayal Jennifer Lawrence plays Mystique in “X-Men: First Class”, 2011, just before changing again and becoming Katniss Everdeen in “Hunger Games”. sometimes his / her motives are more clear and understandable, sometimes they are not for us to see and it leaves us confused, guessing (does it ever happen in real life? Really?). This can also be, for example, a lover who cheats or leaves us or is constantly unfaithful


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“Casanova”, 2005. Here portrayed by Heath Ledger, who had a preference for shape shifting, ambiguous roles.

What is there to learn for the Hero, and for us, in all this? Well – that not all is what it seems, for example. Or that apparently opposite qualities can exist together at the same time, in the same person.

Capitain Jack Sparrow (from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series). Wise, fool, or a bit of both? Probably a bit of both. To make more obvious his nature of shape shifter, Captain Sparrows actually shows that he can change his own physical shape if he wants!

And also, we can learn not to be too hard on ourselves. Because we, too, are full of paradoxes and contradictions. We are just human, after all In us very different energies coexist and we might want to acknowledge them, learn to respect them, if we want to embrace them as parts of ourselves. This can be very liberating, too. Instead of fighting and resisting all these forces, learn to give a name to each of them, and welcome them. Ok, in some cases this can be too much, it’s true if you start hearing voices like this in your head – mmm you might actually start worrying. But maybe we don’t need to go that far, and we can put our pieces together actually before our personality breaks into pieces, no?

The Villain

Last but not least, of course. There can be no story if the Protagonist doesn’t meet a worthy opponent. The main rival, the Antagonist. Through confronting with this, the Hero really achieves greatness, so the greatest the enemy, the greatest the value of the Quest. So what happens in some stories? The Hero works hard, collects a bunch of buddies, gets the magic sword, and defeats the Bad Guy. Right?

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there is a reason why we say “a James Bond Villain” when we want to indicate a stereotypical bad guy.

Wrong.

This is also where cheap, superficial storytelling doesn’t really make a good service to its cause.

The Villain is there for a reason.

Their motivations and background stories must be, if possible, known and understood. Respected, even. Because there is a great deal of learning that we can collect from this. In fact, it’s precisely here that lies the importance of the Enemy in the story.

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“There is something about you. Something you carry, something made of gold… but far more PRECIOUS…” says Smaug the Dragon in “The Desolation of Smaug”, 2013. It is really cool. Too bad the rest of the movie is so not.

Experience comes not by killing the dragon, but by understanding how the dragon became what it is. Because the Villain is, really, the Hero in its own story. Or maybe – it was once, and fell victim of greed, ambition, hunger for power, selfishness – and became the Fallen Angel: see Lucifer, Darth Vader, Voldemort. the relationship between a young Tom Riddle (later to become Voldemort) and Albus Dumbledore is described in detail in the “Harry Potter” saga. And here is the key. The Hero’s Journey is not, must not be, a quest for personal power, gain or wealth. If that’s all what happens, the Hero will soon fall out of grace, and become the Dragon (see again the Minotaur in this other post), that somebody else will have one day to face and defeat. The Journey can instead be a journey of understanding, of self and the universe. An experience of empathy, compassion and generosity. Where the Protagonist realises that all the experience and rewards that he / she collects, will serve a higher purpose. Maybe which one, is not clear yet at this stage. And that’s fine. But the Villain must be here to show what is the price of defeat. Anakin’s fall is complete – his rebirth as a Sith will begin. From “The Revenge of the Sith”, 2005.

Last notes.

Sure, this has been a brief overview. We are trying to cover all of the human experience in a bunch of rather stereotyped characters. But bear with me still for a couple of minutes there.

The beauty of storytelling from all ages is that it’s possible to play with the elements we have seen, and combine them in infinite ways. This creates some of the most interesting, sophisticated and… realistic characters. Because we are like that, aren’t we? We are not all good or bad, teachers or students, leaders or followers, parents or children, lovers or loved ones.

And so we tend to fall for characters that are tri-dimensional, that are able to pop out of the written page or the big screen, and talk directly to us: because they are like us.

So let’s just have a look at a few famous crossovers between the types. Ah, yes, spoiler alert. Following here are some revelations on stories like Star Wars, major Batman characters, The Godfather, Lord of the Rings. If you are not familiar with these stories already, how come are you on the internet?

But enough. Let’s start our little quiz!

What happens when a Hero becomes a Villain, but at the same time stays always a Mentor, at the end to become a Friend again – and even a Wise Father who saves the Galaxy?

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And what about a scoundrel, a trickster and criminal, who acts as messenger and helps the Hero to cross the first threshold, not without a price? And then seems to be too selfish to really care, but in the end comes back to save the day?Let’s change story. Who is always a trickster and a shapeshifter, but sometimes a teacher for us and possibly, even a friend? And what about an enemy who becomes a friend, to become an enemy again, a potential (sometimes very real – always veeeery sexy) love interest, but always ready to go their own way? And what if our elder brother, nonetheless, turns his back to us and is ready to betray us switching to the side of our worst enemy? Does he love us less? and finally – a Friend and Ally who is consumed by greed and cannot resist his own weakness, tries to change side and betrays us, but in the end redeems himself with a final heroic deed?And still in “The Lord of the Rings”: how many roles does this little guy have?

isn’t it so cuuuuuute?

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Guide, Trickster, Friend, Villain, Mentor… and more? Ok, you got it. It could be an interesting game to play, in your favourite story, to try and identify to what “roles” or archetypes the different characters belong, and if they keep their roles through the story. And if, as it happens in the best narrative, each character, even the apparently minor ones, have their own narrative arcs outlined, so that it’s possible for us to follow their evolution, understand their motivation and feelings, perceive their different layers, and in other world identify a part of ourselves in each of them, so to have a richer and gratifying experience when living through the story.

Please note! Rescogita doesn’t own the pictures used in this article. They are shared under fair use for educational purposes. All rights belong to the respective owners.

Palm Sunday

Jesus Christ makes a triumphant entry in Jerusalem on this day, day before Jewish Passover, and is welcomed by the city’s people waving throngs as he rides in on a donkey, clothes and alive branches are set on his path as blessing, following the spreading news that he had just resurrected Lazarus from the dead. And in Orthodox Christianity the Troparion recites “By raising Lazarus from the dead before Your passion, You did confirm the universal Resurrection, O Christ God! Like the children with the palms of victory, We cry out to You, O Vanquisher of death; Hosanna in the Highest! Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord!” It is a day crowned with joy, and today it is celebrated by the Christian Orthodox communities across the world, the joy shadowed by the upcoming sad events to come known as The Passion, Jesus’ arrest, torture and crucifixion. Also in some Orthodox tradition, Palm Sunday allows a few exceptions to the strict Lent rules, like eating foods like fish, otherwise forbidden, since this is a joyful day. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

Lazarus Saturday

Today Orthodox Christians celebrate Lazarus of Bethany, the man resurrected by Jesus Christ, a day of joy and celebration amidst the austerity and penance of Lent fasting, within the sorrowful week that precedes the death and resurrection of the Son of God.  

Also, traditionally, this was the day when some of the holiest and most respected and worshipped people in Christianity, hermits, would end their isolation into the wild and make way to their monasteries for the Holy Week services.

We can witness on this day some powerful symbolic traditions and rituals, as the Russian Orthodox churches decorate their entrances with green drapes to symbolise the return of life. In the Hellenic world the day foresees making elaborate crosses out of palm leafs, and generally services and prayers are offered on this day, prior to Christ’s resurrection, as life-death-life cycle is being celebrated, from a mortal’s resurrection to that of Jesus Christ. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

World Earth Day

This year’s Earth Day will be very special, as it will be honoured by a global climate summit hosted by the United States, a further acknowledgement and recognition for the need of immediate action. Earth Day was a movement that started in 1970, and was honoured by the Paris Agreement assigning the 22nd of April as World Earth Day. Besides the international summit, there will also be initiatives across the world to honour this day, initiatives aiming at raising awareness as well as identifying solutions to the problems the Earth is facing today and necessary restoration. So we invite you to browse this map , to find and support events happening around you, and if you feel like it, why not organise one yourself. Any action is welcome, large or small, as long as we raise our voice concerning the needs of our planet. We too in Rescogita have our own plans for today and hope you will join us. 

The EarthDay movement reminds us that topics can well be climate and environmental literacy, climate restoration technologies, reforestation efforts, regenerative agriculture, equity and environmental justice, citizen science, cleanups, and beyond. World climate leaders, grassroots activists, nonprofit innovators, thought leaders, industry leaders, artists, musicians, influencers, and more will be involved. And actions include clean-up days (if pandemic measures allow) debates, hackathons, live events, flashmobs, take your pick. 🙂  

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

Ram Navami

It marks the culmination of the spring festival of Vasanta Navratri (Chaitra Navratri) which begins on Ugadi. Completing the celebrations of Lord Rama’s birth. 

As Rama, the 7th incarnation of Vishnu, is the main hero of the sanskrit epic Ramayana, the day culminates with reading the saga’s final chapters and highlights across temples.

Households are thoroughly cleaned and the family shrines host symbolic representations of Rama surrounded by colourful offerings and fresh fruits, and prayers recited following a ritual bath. Ram Navami foresees fasting or just abstinence from  garlic, onions and wheat. The day is associated with good fortune auspices, a fun tradition is to place a pot full of money atop a tree and youth need to compete on catching the pot, however the tree is covered in slippery mud and the pot itself greased, while others throw buckets of water on them as they try to climb just to make thing easier, a guarantee of fun and a true challenge to accomplish. Wishing all a very good and fun Ram Navami.

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

World Creativity and Innovation Day

Indeed creativity and innovation do need to be celebrated, acknowledged and fostered, today more than ever, because this is exactly what we need the most today. Humanity’s at a turning point, where the solutions of the past have become the problems of the present. Economic and social systems that allowed progress in every field at unprecedented scale like never before and that we should be grateful for to our ancestors and foreparents. Yet today’s world is not facing the problems of yesterday but those of today, and is not equipped to deal with them, would be like having medieval surgery tools in a modern day  high-tech hospital. Nowadays we are facing challenges and problems that are more global, though with strong local effects, which need a worldwide approach and response, and for that today’s governance, economic, political and social tools have become obsolete and inefficient in tackling the climate crisis, pollution, mass migration and even the pandemic has showed us the need of a global effort. We are now looking at young people, and with pressure to let out those ideas, to be creative, to lead innovation and come up with new models, systems and pave the way to keep up human economic, political, cultural and social progress to the next level. It is a lot of pressure, it is necessary, it is possible. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

THE ROAD OF TRIALS (Part 6)

By Carmine Rodi Falanga

This article was originally published on “To Say Nothing of the Cat”, the author’s personal blog where he explores the connections between storytelling and contemporary culture

Or, nobody is born a hero. This chapter is dedicated to all the efforts necessary to get out of a limited conditions, and achieve greatness. It was 1939. Social and economic tensions in Europe and Asia were soon to bring the whole world in a catastrophic conflict. Life had to seem rather grim to our predecessors of that time. So we can probably imagine what was the reaction of audiences, first in the U.S. and then worldwide, when for the first time they could see colours on a movie screen. Their amazement was probably not very different from Dorothy’s once she realises she is not in Kansas anymore: By the way, the reference “Toto, I have a feeling we are not in Kansas anymore” is ranked number 4 in the American Film Institute top 100 movie quotes.  This sentence from the movie has become an icon of popular culture. And it introduces us perfectly to the next stage of the Hero’s Journey: the “Road of Trials”.

Our character has crossed the threshold, probably facing the first challenge in the process, but what waits now is the real thing. Everything is different in the Extraordinary world: rules, people, sometimes even the natural laws. Stories differ a lot in their details but they all make sure to invest a good deal of time and information in letting us perceive how different the world feels on the other side.

Alice has to learn that in the Wonderland things are not always what they seem, and she will have to test the boundaries of her own curiosity and abilities while experimenting with different food and meeting various characters.

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If you see mushrooms that come with vague instruction leaflets, don’t eat them. That’s a lesson that cannot be understated.

Shogun“, the 1975 novel by James Clavell that inspired the tv series with Richard Chamberlain (and later Tom Cruise’s “The Last Samurai“, 2003 ) describes in great detail the long and painful process of cultural shock and adaptation that the main character (John Blackthorne) has to go through, once he finds himself shipwrecked in feudal Japan.Richard Chamberlain in the “Shogun” tv series (1980)and Tom Cruise from “The Last Samurai” (2003). Wait, but they look exactly the same!

In Avatar (2010), Colonel Quaritch makes it very clear that the new environment will be wonderful, but terrible. Pandora is a planet where: Col. Quaritch is the almost archetypal mentor-villain played by Stephen Lang in “Avatar” (2009)

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YOU’RE NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE. YOU’RE ON PANDORA. RESPECT THAT FACT EVERY SECOND OF EVERY DAY. IF THERE IS A HELL, YOU MIGHT WANT TO GO THERE FOR SOME R & R AFTER A TOUR ON PANDORA. OUT THERE BEYOND THAT FENCE EVERY LIVING THING THAT CRAWLS, FLIES, OR SQUATS IN THE MUD WANTS TO KILL YOU AND EAT YOUR EYES FOR JUJUBES.
WE HAVE AN INDIGENOUS POPULATION OF HUMANOIDS CALLED THE NA’VI. THEY’RE FOND OF ARROWS DIPPED IN A NEUROTOXIN THAT WILL STOP YOUR HEART IN ONE MINUTE — AND THEY HAVE BONES REINFORCED WITH NATURALLY OCCURRING CARBON FIBER. THEY ARE VERY HARD TO KILL.
AS HEAD OF SECURITY, IT IS MY JOB TO KEEP YOU ALIVE. I WILL NOT SUCCEED. NOT WITH ALL OF YOU. IF YOU WISH TO SURVIVE, YOU NEED TO CULTIVATE A STRONG, MENTAL ATTITUDE. YOU GOT TO OBEY THE RULES: PANDORA RULES!

Ok, I admit it’s a bit over-emphatic, but it’s effective as a description of what lies before the marines, just arrived to the new planet. Unimaginably rich rewards will come (to the investors’ pockets of course), but very hard, deadly challenges must be overcome first (by the working class marines. Mmm… do I detect a hint of exposure of social injustice here?).   This concept is so popular and familiar that comes almost natural to us, right? When we enter a new environment, we have to work hard to learn how to play by its rules. This new world can be a physical place, a new geographical area, like in “Wizard of Oz“, “Alice in Wonderland“, or so many stories that include travel and the adaptation that comes after:

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“Anna and the King” (1999). Jodie Foster will have a hard time learning to live in 19th century’s Siam with her son, Draco Malfoy Louis

or a new social setting, like a new group or a job environment that presents itself as particularly hostile until we adapt and learn how to navigate in it,

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“You have no style or fashion sense”. “I think that depends on…” “No, no, that wasn’t a question”. (“The Devil Wears Prada”, 2006)

or, often, a combination of both: a different space where also uses and customs are different and demand a good deal of effort from us before we can consider part of it.

John Dumbar shares his ways with the Sioux in “Dances with Wolves” (1990)

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As an alternative, the change can be from a life stage, to another. In this case, too, we will have to face completely new challenges that will test our limits. At first it will seem impossible to overcome them (“I will never pass this exam”, or “I will never be able to sleep anymore”), but with enough training, effort, discipline, we will eventually make it.
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growing up sure is fun in “The Lion King” (1994)…… but it can lead to unexpected challenges!

Or, the story can use elaborate metaphores to “transfer” a meaning from another domain. For example, to describe a spiritual change, we refer to a “magical”, sci-fi or fantasy world where even the laws of nature as we know them can be bent, if we only learn how. Very strong analogies can of course be found in the mythologies. In the Greek myth, Hercules has to sustain 12 labours before he could atone his horrible sins – he killed his wife and sons – and achieve immortality. Some of them were “heroic” as we intend it, some were meant to teach him other virtues, such as humility.

The fifth labour was to clean the stables of King Augeas. The livestock there were divinely healthy (and immortal) and therefore produced an enormous quantity of poo. The Augean Stables had not been cleaned in over 30 years, and over 1,000 cattle lived there.800px-Mosaico_Trabajos_Hércules_(M.A.N._Madrid)_05

that must have been a lot of shit a hard task to accomplish!

Moving to another culture, the Irish Celtic hero Cuchulain fell in love with Emer and asked her to marry him. She insisted that he must first prove his valor by undergoing a series of trials and sent him to the war goddess Scatha to be trained in warfare. On his journey to Scatha, Cuchulain had to pass through the plain of Ill Luck, where sharp grasses cut travelers’ feet, and through the Perilous Glen, where dangerous animals roamed (that’s still pretty common if you go on a hike in Ireland, see for example). Then Cuchulain had to cross the Bridge of the Cliff, which raised itself vertically when someone tried to cross it.

Then, Cuchulain fought Aife, the strongest woman in the world. He defeated Aife, made peace with her, and she bore him a son, Cornila (the peace agreement must have been really intense). While returning home to claim his bride, Cuchulain rescued a princess and visited the underworld.

That’s a “road of trials” indeed. Cuchulain is a central character in the Celtic myth, which has mostly been transmitted orally and never been written down until modern times. That’s why many different sources of the same story can exist and really contradict each other.

To testify the character’s greatness however, he even made it to the Marvel comic universe, appearing in one side story of the “Guardians of the Galaxy” series.

Back to the shores of the Mediterranean. One thousand years before Christ, the Greek free cities were suffering the domination of Crete, back then the strongest power in the region, which was ruled by the all-ambitious king Minos. As a sign of their dominant position, Crete was periodically asking a heavy human sacrifice to Athens: that the seven most valiant boys, and the seven most beautiful girls, were shipped to Crete, never to be seen again.

The horrible truth was that these young people were given to the Minotaur, a monstrous creature half man-half bull that Minos kept imprisoned in the centre of a Labyrinth, and who needed to feed on human flesh.

Minotaur

Theseus and the Minotaur. 6th century, black figure pottery

The Minotaur was actually part of Minos’ not-so-traditional family, being the son of his queen Pasifae, who had been cursed in turn by the God Poseidon as a consequence of Minos’ excessive ambition. But this is, once again, another story, and shall be told another time.

Anyway, after three rounds of such sacrifices, Athens decided it was enough, and sent its prince Theseus disguised as a prisoner to Crete. Theseus was really full of resources. He first found some local ally who provided him with valuable know-how, entered the Labyrinth, got to the centre and faced the Minotaur, slaying him. To get out, he used the famous “red thread” he got from Ariadne before the mission.

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Ariadne, played by Ellen Page in “Inception”, is the Architect who helps Cobbs (Di Caprio) to get to the centre of the dream world labyrinth — and back

This is a very long and elaborate story, that we summarised really in short. There can be no more powerful myth than this tale, which contains all the classic elements of a story and of course of the Hero’s Journey. The Labyrinth symbolises at the same time a big material challenge, to be faced using intellect and other resources (see again the iconic “red thread” he receives from Ariadne: she acts as Mentor but at the same time also as romantic interest). To enter a Labyrinth also means proceeding turn after turn into the “center” of something. It can be seen as a descending journey into own’s awareness, a spiral of growth or revelation that necessarily will lead to a “crisis” (= the centre), and then to change.And in the essence this is what happens in “The road of trials”. After the initial shock and for the first time confronted with original problems, situations or characters, the main character will realise that:

  • he or she is not anymore in their comfort zone, and that new rules have to be learned;
  • challenges and even dangers are there and are real, and they can only be overcome by using skills or developing new ones;
  • learning, development and self-trust are really the only key to success.lab

an archetypal Labyrinth, quite full of challenges, is also to be faced by the young Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) in “Labyrinth” (1986).

In social sciences, this finds an accurate mirror in what happens in phenomena like “cultural shock” and “cultural adaptation”. 

We know how strong our reaction can be when we face a new environment: new languages, codes, people, behaviour, weather, laws, currency, customs… so much new information to manage! Our brain, evolved through thousands of years when we were living in much more homogeneous, closed and stable societies, knows well how to process rather large bricks of information at one single time. This is why we developed the mechanisms of stereotypes, to take fast and hard decisions with a safe margin of error. We can learn how to “thin slice“, and actually become very good at it, but it’s not our first automatic response when we are facing a new problem.

The Process of Culture Shock and Cultural Adjustment

Confronted with the original challenge of having to read the small letters, for example of intercultural understanding, we can actually black out and freeze. We perceive “different” as “challenging”, “dangerous”, and we react as a consequence.

This explains why culture shock can even produce physical (exhaustion, illnesses, allergic reactions), or psychological consequences (such as phobias, tics, neurotic traits or behaviours, burn out). We react to it as we normally would to a big threat.

But no worries: as we have seen, this is absolutely normal, and it actually can be expected! Modern science reassures us by providing the hard evidence our intellectual mind craves for; but ancient wisdom has always been there, and even in contemporary storytelling we keep telling exactly the same story.

If Harry Potter had to work so hard to pass his first year, why shouldn’t I?Harry_Potter-young

“The wand chooses the wizard… it’s not always clear why”.

Is it really that strange, this new culture I am getting to know? Or is it only my natural reaction to it, and with time I will learn to deal with it?

the Na’vi people, again from “Avatar” (2009)

So, just as the heroes of legends develop new skills to overcome the challenges that at first seemed too hard to beat – or master some inner, forgotten potential they didn’t even suspect to have before; so do we, everytime we face a test of some kind. We react just like them, first with shock or fear then we somehow start to come to terms with the problem we collect our resources and develop new skills and we finally get the hang of it! So what is the universal, healing lesson that we can take from this part of the Journey? Even if at first the odds seem so much greater than us, there is nothing we can’t possibly achieve. We can learn to be part of another social group, solve a particular problem that bothers us, defeat the illness that has just been diagnosed to a close person, or master the challenges of the new life stage we are facing.

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No matter how big the challenge seems: by working hard, we can make it. And even if we don’t – how to deal constructively with failure? These is a deep wisdom to be learned about this too, that will be covered in future parts of the Journey.

Another important element of this process is that the Hero(ine) discovers that he/she cannot do it alone. The people we meet along our Journey make all difference for us between defeat or success. And so is for us. But this is another story, and we will tell it another time… in the next post, “Friends, Foes and All Those in Between“.

Good luck with your challenges! Welcome them as opportunities to learn new skills and expand your horizons. Celebrate achievement, and failure… celebrate that, too!  Because there is no other way if we want to get to see what is on the other side.  Dare to enter.

Please note! Rescogita doesn’t own the pictures used in this article. They are shared under fair use for educational purposes. All rights belong to the respective owners.

The Most Great Festival

Today the Baha’i believers remember the Bahà u’llah declaration that he was a manifestation of God. Starts tonight at sunset and will continue for twelve days, also known as the Most Great Festival. Back in 1863 Baháʼu’lláh was in Ridvan (translates as Paradise) near Baghdad and there he made his declaration after spending 12 days there. On these days celebrations of Baha’i communities around the world are going to echo joy and community, celebrating the foundational spiritual teachings marked by peace and end of all violence. Bahais these days celebrate, vote for the spiritual councils  and the Universal House of Justice dispenses its messages to all believes across the world stressing that “humanity’s ultimate well-being is dependent upon its differences being transcended and its unity firmly established” to foster local and global community building.

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

World Art Day

Remember reading somewhere that Earth without Art is just Eh, and that really resonated, and so true this is. Art nurtures creativity, innovation and cultural diversity for all peoples across the globe and plays an important role in sharing knowledge and encouraging curiosity and dialogue. These are qualities that art has always had, and will always have if we continue to support environments where artists and artistic freedom are promoted and protected. In this way, furthering the development of art also furthers our means to achieve a free and peaceful world. Tells us UNESCO. Therefore today our kudos go to all the artists out there, who pursued their passion and creativity, who make their contribution for a more beautiful planet and humanity, who manage to pull the strings of our heart, mind and soul and move them towards higher states. By the way, we are also going to dare that there are artists and forms of us in each and everyone of us, it is there though not everybody nurture it, and perhaps that is fine. However, every soul has a creative gateway that allows it to express its true self, and that we can find in museum and galleries, on an apartment’s wall, in a basement, in a box stored away with other sweet memories or sometimes only in our imagination. Thank you to all the artists out there. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

Solar Year….now it starts!

Wishing all a happy Baisakhi Day, marking the beginning of the solar year for both Hindus and Sikh, though this festivity appears to be more heartfelt by the latter. As Sikhs begin this day by attending service at the Gurdwara before attending a street procession called Nagar Kirtan along the streets, accompanied by singing, chanting and plenty of colours, and once over families and friends gather together to share a good meal in great company. 

This is also the festival of the Spring’s Harvest in many parts of India as the first crops are gathered following the late Winter planting. That is why the day also includes for farmers expressing gratitude to the Divinity for the crops, prosperity and abundant harvest. The significance is the commemoration of how the Khalsa Panth (a community that considers Sikhism as its faith, as well as a special group of initiated Sikhs)  was formed under the guidance of Guru Gobind Singh in 1699. 

For Hindus the period marks the descent of Goddess Ganga on Earth, and to honour her worshippers take a ritual bath along the Ganga river. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

Ramayana

From today until the 21st of April we will celebrate Rama Navami, the birth of Lord Rama, as it culminates the Spring Fest of Vasanta Navratri. Indeed one of the main festivals enjoyed by all Hindu believers. In this time of the year you can hear everywhere readings and recitations of the beautiful Ramayana holy scripture, visit the temples to bathe and cloth idols of Lord Ram,  and spend time with family and friends. The festivity concludes with a day and night long fasting while reading narrations of the Ramayana, or witnessing the ceremonial wedding between Lord Rama and Goddess Sita, sometimes attended in a public procession.  

The Ramayana is an epic centred on human values, an epic read that translates as the March of Rama, as in his quest to rescue his wife Sita from the demon king Ravana, Lord Rama travels and explores human nature, values and principles that equip him to struggle against the evil kidnapper, and must add in very beautiful and poetic verses. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

Hindi New Year

Happy New Year to all Hindi believers and followers. As springtime’s return to life also marks the beginning of the new annual cycle, nature comes to life and so does the world as it awakens after the winter’s sleep. It is a time marked with sweets, gifts, greeting of goodwill, and also to wear something new to symbolically mark the new beginning. Homes are thoroughly cleaned up and decorated with many colours and symbols of good fortune, before going on to visit the temples and receive the blessings of the Gods. Especially Latkshmi and Ganesha are the favoured ones for prayer. In some cases elders give money to youth for good luck in the coming year, and overall it is a family time crowned with large feasts, extended relatives and lush meals. Another interesting tradition of this day is listening to the interpretation of the positions of the stars and to interpret them as signs for the future to come, as astrology plays a big part in daily life, usually a task assigned to an astrologer tasked with reading the family’s fortune, or a family elder, and this is a massive event. All in all, once again, happy new year! 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

Ramadan

Happy wishes, Ramadan Kareen, as we enter the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, and literally translates as “burning/scorching heat’” which per se does not sound too promising but makes sense, that month was when the Quran  was first revealed to the prophet Muhammad by Allah.

Typically what most people know is that fasting marks this month celebration during daylight hours, abstinence from food and water, interrupted between sundown and sunrise. As a matter of fact fasting is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, meaning obligatory in the life of observant Muslims, along with faith, prayer, charity and Hadj (the pilgrimage to Mecca). By the way, fasting is not just food, its about drinking, bad habits, sex, swearing, gossiping and any other sins, as food and water are consumed heartily before dawn and after sunset. 

Fasting allows believers to express their  faith through prayers, expressing gratitude, seeking forgiveness and helping the needy. Concerning this last part would like to share a personal experience of observing Ramadan as an outsider travelling through Eastern Turkey in this period, and that was witnessing massive pavilions and tents set up outside the Mosques which were alit with colourful lights right after sunset and volunteers set long tables with all kinds of delicious food worthy of a king offered freely to any passerby, even to non-Muslims. So I was invited to join and looking around saw businesspeople in smart suits and dresses sharing the meal with homeless, workers, elders and youth in a time marked with joy and sense of community. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

CROSSING THE THRESHOLD (Part 5)

By Carmine Rodi Falanga

This article was originally published on “To Say Nothing of the Cat”, the author’s personal blog where he explores the connections between storytelling and contemporary culture

We are finally ready. Or at least, as ready as we can. It’s time to pack and step into the Big Unknown! Usually alone, or following the Messengeror our Mentor, it is time now to get out of the familiar, ordinary world and enter in an Extra-Ordinary space. Just think about it: how many times did it happen to you? Travelling to an unfamiliar place. Entering a new work environment. Having to adopt a new culture. Kicking off a new project. Starting a new year at school… This is the story of new beginnings. There is a very old and rich tradition celebrating this phase, stepping into the Big Out There. And all the challenges that come with it. In the Hero’s Journey metaphor, all the journeys start at the same way. As J. R. R. Tolkien writes in “The Lord of the Rings”:  Every journey begins with a single step.

Bilbo decides to follow Gandalf and the Dwarves in “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” (2012).

the-hobbit-unexpected-journey-quote-4

How true! In all our adventures, the hardest step to make is usually… the first one. Having to get out of our comfort zone. Quite the effort, isn’t it? It certainly is. As we discussed before (here and here for example), leaving home costs us in terms of energy, at both the physical and mental level. When our species was living in caves, our progenitors were forced to leave the security of our “home” to face unknown risks and predators on the outside. This is how the human species has survived and thrived. We probably store that genetic memory somewhere in our collective mind, and this is why everytime we are faced with a new challenge, we feel an initial resistance to change. It’s even physical, isn’t it? Goosebumps, that tingling in the hair behind our neck, butterflies in the stomach. Our organism seems to revolt and warn us against going out there.

And yet, as we know, that is where the fun part begins. In stories, this stage is usually represented with a a real journey of some kind. Entering a hole in the ground. Opening a door. Leving home, crossing the ocean, jumping in the hyperspace.where-the-magic-happens-your-comfort-zone

Neo enters the mirror (a reference to “Alice through the looking glass”) in “The Matrix”

Neo enters the mirror (a reference to
what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas in

(1999)what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas in “The Hangover” (2009)

The element of physical movement helps us to realise that change is happening. Of course this whole stage can also happen only at a metaphorical level. Changing job; enrolling in a new school; getting to retirement age; giving birth to a child — these are all perfect examples of “entering an extraordinary world”, seen as entering a new stage of our life. This is the reason why, traditionally, all societies have developed even very elaborated “Rites of Passage” to mark ceremonially the passage from each of our life stages to another. Think of a wedding. Or initiation to adulthood. Or a graduation celebration. In traditional societies, a formal ritual performed by elders or leaders and witnessed by the community, was necessary to seal the end of a life stage, and the beginning of a new one. And all ceremonies, according to Arnold Van Gennep, have 3 distinct stages: separation (leaving something behind), initiation (the core experience itself), integration (into the future life, bringing it all back home). The passage from one life stage to another must be made explicit, so that we and our community can learn from it and get to the next phase. Before you enter, beware. This is the meaning of “The Threshold”. See this, for a great example of a collective Rite of Passage:

Steve Job’s most famous speech (the “Commencement speech” he held at Stanford, in 2005) has all the elements of the Rite of Passage. There is the recognition by the “elders” (himself, an inspiring figure for everybody who wants to start a company, plus all the professors sitting behind). The community element is very present, with all the students, elders and their families attending the event together. And Jobs – an amazing speaker – draws a clear separation between the “before” and “after” in the students’ life, by creating powerful images and sharing stories from his own life on universal topics such as life, family, career, death.

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Typically, thresholds were defended by Guardians.

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trying to cross the Wall unprepared could lead to an unpleasant surprise in “Stardust” (2007)

The Guardians are there to make our life a little harder, and more interesting. But they are also there to give more value to the challenge (after all… no pain, no gain, remember?). What’s more interesting: we don’t necessarily need to fight the Guardians. Some are simply there to check our value in other, more subtle ways. A riddle, maybe? A test for some skills of ours?Orpheus was the finest poet of his times. His young, wonderful wife died tragically from a snake bite. Disaster! But instead of falling to desperation, he decided to try the impossible: to go all the way to Hades, the Greek Underworld, to claim back his Eurydice to the realm of the living.

Easier said than done. The gates of Hell were guarded by Cerberus, the feared three-headed dog.

 Hercules was able to defeat it in the twelfth of his labours, but Orpheus was no warrior. What to do then? Desperate, he decided to use the only talent he got: his poetry. He started to play his lyre, and so beautiful his music was, so touching the melody – the hell dog cuddled up, rolled on his back, and fell asleep. Letting our hero pass through. (Yes! By the way, just like in Harry Potter and the The Philosopher’s Stone (2001)!)Edward_Poynter_-_Orpheus_and_Eurydice

Orpheus and Eurydice, Edward Poynter, 1862

So: changes are never easy – and they shouldn’t be. In order for us to understand the deep value of the important transformations in our life, some kind of price must be paid. A sacrifice: “sacri-fice”, from Latin: to make something sacred: not at all a bad thing according to our ancestors!This concept is deeply encoded in our culture. If you want to enter a new place, get ready to face the consequences. A very powerful symbol for this could be found in the ancient Greek and Roman culture: at a funeral, two coins were placed on the dead person’s closed eyelids. The person would need the money to pay the ferryman to get to the other side of the River of souls. The tradition has been only slightly changed and adopted by George R. R. Martin in his “A Song of Ice and Fire” saga (and in the uber-popular HBO tv series).

somebody important just died in HBO’s “Game of Thrones” season 4

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Or… think of a bridge. Nowadays we get away with paying just some toll. but what happened in the tradition? Trolls used to live under bridges, monstrous creatures ready to devour the unwise travellers, unless they managed to solve a riddle, leave a tribute or show otherwise their worthiness.
meet the bridge troll in

Geralt meets a proper bridge troll in “The Witcher 2” This is why it’s probably never a good idea to go for a free ride. There is a Spirit somewhere that gets angry, every time we cross a threshold without respect. Keep that in mind, next time it manifests in our material world, maybe in the form of a Public Transport authority or a Tax Agency officer.  It hurts… but there is a lesson to learn there. 

Well – do you see the bigger picture?If you want to get somewhere, are you willing to pay the price?

Cooper, the heroic space explorer played by Matthew Mc Conaughey in “Interstellar” (2014), has to face this harsh realisation in his conversation with Dr. Brand (Anne Hathaway).

Coop – “Ranger 2, prepare to detach” ”

Brand – “What? No, Cooper, what are you doing?!”

Coop – “Newton’s third law, gotta leave something behind.”

Brand – “You told me there were enough resources for the both of us.”

Coop – “Remember we agreed? Ninety percent. Detach.”

Which is in my opinion brings forth a very interesting reflection. No matter if you look at the issue from the purely logical-scientific point of view, or from a spiritual one: the conclusion is the same. When you leave your comfort zone, if you ever want to achieve something, you have to be ready to leave something behind.

So, to recap. A few tips for heroes in their journeys:

  • a change of state (of any kind) is usually marked by powerful symbols. Our work is to recognise them, and honour them for what they are. Not obstacles there just to bother us, but noble, ancient Guardians that are there to test our powers;
  • Thresholds, Gates, Bridges… all wonderful examples of thresholds. When crossing them, especially the most important of our lives, we should do it respectfully and ceremonially;
  • Metaphorical thresholds are maybe even more important than material ones. Exams. Ending a relationship. Starting a new job. Giving birth. A period of disease. A change in life stages should always be celebrated and recognised by community. It takes courage to face change: this should always be honoured;
  • Don’t linger on a threshold: once you are on it, close your eyes, smile, jump. There is no point in prolonging the “panic” feeling any longer. Acknowledge it, welcome it, let it flow through you… and then jump, ready to see what’s next.

Please note! Rescogita doesn’t own the pictures used in this article. They are shared under fair use for educational purposes. All rights belong to the respective owners.

Yom HaShoah

Let’s light a candle on “Yom HaShoah Ve-Hagevurah” Day of remembrance of the Holocaust and the Heroism. One of darkest and most insane pages of human history, where our overrational-industrial age mentality was applied to human destruction and death, making it an efficient system just like a factory chain, including anyone who who felt, thought, looked different, even when those differences were subjectively and aptly created and otherwise do not exist. It is a day to light a candle in remembrance of the fallen, of the survivors as well as the perpetrators, each in their own way victims of an age that devalued individual life, fostered violence under every possible mean and tool and brought to the surface our scariest ghosts. 

And yet, whenever this day occurs my memory brings back the last years of high school when, as a compulsory text we had to read “If This is a Man” by Auschwitz survivor Primo Levi, and two things struck me of that book, the first was the total absence of hatred in his words chapter after chapter, simple descriptions emotionless and no hard word or even judgement towards his torturers. The second when he described his coping strategy against a system that aimed to nullify your identity and personality by replacing your name with a number, and that was to maintain routines, something as simple as taking off his shirt, putting it around his neck as a towel and go to wash his face, a simple daily gesture that reminded him of his humanity, identity and name and got him through hell until the camp was liberated. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

World Health Day

Since 1950, the world today celebrates the World Health Day. The COVID-19 pandemic has undercut recent health gains, pushed more people into poverty and food insecurity, and amplified gender, social and health inequities. Therefore regardless if we were directly hit by the contagion, or our closed one, or not all, we have to acknowledge that each one of us has suffered from this pandemic and its necessary preventive and management measures, and paid a high toll, either in terms of job and income loss, end of relationships, solitude and loneliness and an uncertain outlook towards a brighter future that may seem distant. In some strange way we got, in recent decades, the habit to treating the symptoms and focusing on removing them rather than going at the very root of what causes the ailment in the first place. Everytime a headache comes here come the pills that remove the pain and we are fine with it, but what about the reason that caused the headache in the first place? On the one hand we need, and must rely and invest in scientific progress and research to deal with illnesses and disease, and its annoying and harmful symptoms, yet, this needs to go hand in hand with working on what caused that illness in the first place, what is at the root. 

What medicine do we need? Our community? The biosphere? 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach.

Sports for Development and Peace

It was many years ago during a work trip to Denmark, that I came across some physical education instructors from public schools, sharing stories about education and practices they shared that in Denmark P.E. classes removed all elements of competition from the sports they practiced, and rather took sports class as an opportunity for team building and focusing on social skills and enjoyment, rather than fostering a sense where pupils need to excel over one another. At first I admit I was quite skeptical about this whole approach until they shared a statistic that compared to other parts of Europe the majority of Danes continue doing and practicing sports also when they finish school, because most retain a positive, fun and connecting memory to doing sports, rather than bitter defeats, shaming performances, that create a negative anchor and distance youth from sports once it is not compulsory anymore. Indeed that can well be the key and purpose of sports in today’s society and in shaping present and future generations. Fortunately, not only Rescogita thinks so, today is the International Day for Sport for Development and Peace, sports as a tool and means to reach the Millenium Development Goals. Specifically looking at the universal popularity of sports, it crosses and eliminates cultural, social, economic and political borders. It provides enjoyment or all and has a capacity of being a powerful global communication platform reaching millions, and most of all it has the power to empower, motivate and inspire, bringing out individual and community strengths. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

Good Friday it is

Many Christians today celebrate Good Friday, the culmination of Jesus Christ’s humanity, as on this day the Son of God, chooses to accept his faith and be crucified suffering excruciating and very human pain on the Calvary before resurrecting on Easter Day and defeating death. 

It is a day when Christians empathise with the suffering Jesus had to endure on behalf of humanity’s sins and for our redemption, accompanied by fasting, prayer and abstinence, embracing the natural human condition of suffering and death, before Easter Sunday when the resurrection of the Christ is celebrated, therefore Life! 

One can even say that this is likely the most important day in Christian celebration, and this is day that marks what was to become the symbol of Christianity, the Cross, and something that was inconceivable, a God sacrificing himself out of love for the mortal humans to cleanse them of their sins, and forgiving humans for killing him. 

The meaning of this day is that humanity first has to understand the “bad news” which is the condition of sin and looming condemnation looming over humans as sinful creatures, which is followed by the good deliverance, that is understood and embraced only once we see how our ways, materialism and sins enslaved and chained us to our earthly ways. “Righteousness and Peace will kiss each other, the cross of Jesus is where that occurred, when God’s demands…coincided with His mercy, and peace…” Psalms 85:10

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

International Day of Conscience

“”disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of humankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people.”  And “”all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” Art.1 The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  

This is a recent UN celebration that aims to become a tool to mobilise the efforts of the international community to promote peace, tolerance, inclusion, understanding and solidarity. To remind people to self-reflect, follow their conscience, and do the right things, demonstrating deep faith and believe in humanity’s capacity of deep inside knowing and feeling what actions, decisions and feelings are the necessary and right ones for our sake and wellbeing. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

Easter’s Upon Us

Following the sorrowful days in remembrance of Jesus Christ’s death on the Cross comes what is considered the most important Christian Festivity, Easter, when the Son of God resurrected and thus defeated death, showing the way of human redemption and the way to eternal life. More simply Easter is the celebration of life, forty days have passed fasting, praying, abstaining from earthly pleasures and all of a sudden life can return to be fully lived at its fullest together with the warm and good feelings Spring brings along. 

No wonder popular folklore assigns as symbols to this day eggs, rabbits and doves, in other words cycle of life, procreation and creation of life, along with the symbol of peace and peaceful life.  Therefore we would like to wish to all Western Rite Christians a very happy Easter and celebration of life and of being alive in this great world of ours. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

MEETING THE MENTOR (Part 4)

By Carmine Rodi Falanga

This article was originally published on “To Say Nothing of the Cat”the author’s personal blog where he explores the connections between storytelling and contemporary culture

Odysseus, the reluctant hero, is about to leave for the War of Troy. He knows the war will not be an easy one: dangerous, uncertain, long. His heart is heavy: he is leaving behind his beloved island Ithaca and his family, his wife Penelope and his newborn son Telemachus.

He is especially worried about the boy. How will he cope without his father? Where will he go, if he needs guidance and advice? With these questions in his mind, Odysseus pays a visit to an old friend. “My wise, dear friend. Can I trust you with my boy’s future?” he asked. “In case of need, will you be there as his teacher, tutor and guide?”. The older friend accepted, and took the role of guardian for Odysseus’ young son. He was so good in his role that even a few years later, Athena, Goddess of Wisdom, took his form as a human when she needed to send a message to Telemachus. Mentor and Telemachus in the Odyssey. 

The name of the man was Mentor. Wow, really? That sounds familiar… Since then, the word “Mentor” has become a synonym for counselor, teacher, and wise person. We all have met our Mentors in our life. And in turn, are called to take that role for students, friends, children. It is an extremely important figure, and it has a central place in the Hero’s Journey.

We all, in the course of our life, meet such extraordinary people. When it happens, it’s a memorable experience, that will shape our future life and personality, maybe forever. Meeting the right teacher, role model or guide, even if only for a short time, can indeed be one of the most meaningful moments of our life.

Robin Williams unforgettable in “The Dead Poets Society” (1989)

Don’t we all remember that special teacher, who had that special gift to communicate his knowledge in such an inspiring way? Or that great sport coach, whose motivation was totally contagious, and always managed to push us to overcome our limits?

Or that special, wise person in our family, to whom we always went when we needed support or advice and always knew the right words for us? As human beings, we need to give a meaning to our identity. For that we need a context, to place ourselves in space and time. We need to feel connected as part of a community, and to be recognised by our peers and maybe most importantly, by our elders. This process develops in the early years of our life, but is affirmed in the adolescence, when we pass from the earlier stage of our life (childhood) into maturity (adulthood: adolescence in Latin means “to grow into an adult”).

the relationship between the young Olive and her granddad in “Little Miss Sunshine” is adorable.

Don’t we all remember that special teacher, who had that special gift to communicate his knowledge in such an inspiring way? Or that great sport coach, whose motivation was totally contagious, and always managed to push us to overcome our limits?

And this is precisely the importance of “The Mentor” stage of the Hero’s Journey. A “Mentor” is a powerful archetype for a wise person, typically older than us, that we meet before we cross the threshold out from our everyday, ordinary world (or slightly after: stories can vary quite a bit here). The meaning is clear: we all need good teachers, to feel connected to our ancestors, their knowledge and wisdom, and to receive their blessing before we go on to face our challenges in life, in a sort of implicit rite of passage. It’s the way humans have developed through ages and centuries, from one generation to the following, and so on. It feels natural to us, and so it must be.

Michael Caine in “Inception”

That is why in every, every story that is worth being told, at one point or another in the earlier chapter the hero meets this powerful, charismatic figure. Just think about it: Luke Skywalker has his Obi-Wan Kenobi, Harry Potter meets Dumbledore, Frodo learns from Gandalf about the One Ring. See how the characters resemble each other? That’s because they are in fact different incarnations of exactly the same figure! And more. Forrest Gump becomes friend with the Lieutenant Dan when he goes to Vietnam. They will learn from each other while they live their transformative arcs. Jason assembles his team of super heroes, the Argonauts, after meeting an Oracle. The Ninja Turtles are trained by Splinter, who in fact is a very large rat but they don’t seem to mind being not so picky about talking animals themselves. Dorothy has just arrived to the Land of Oz when she meets the Good Witch of the North, very beautiful because “only evil witches are ugly” of course.

Glinda from “The Wizard of Oz” (1939)

The Mentor as a figure can be masculine, feminine, or more abstract: from the animal world Aslan the Lion in “The Chronicles of Narnia” (2005) or an entity, a spirit, a supernatural force.

 in “The Neverending Story” (1984) Atreyu (and later Bastian) meet Falkor a friendly, reassu ring character or a challenging, menacing one. Bill is at the same time the villain and the Mentor in “Kill Bill Vol. 2” (2004) or maybe a bit of both?

La-storia-infinita-04

Mmmmh can we really trust this guy? the iconic Cheshire Cat from Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland” (1951) is actually there to give directions… in his own peculiar way Which usually is a story in its own. We learn from many different experiences, good and bad ones, and especially from energies that are radically different from ours (masculine/feminine, young/old, modern/classic, natural/technological, spiritual/material).

Cheshire-cat-4

This, for the Hero, can actually be the first very important lesson to learn. A strong, masculine figure recalls probably a father figure and the importance of authority, leadership, responsibility; a caring, compassionate female can be related to motherhood, nourishing, acceptance. The Mentor can also be a love partner (there is indeed a lot of “initiation” happening through our love and sex life!), and in that case the story takes another very definite direction.

prettywoman

in “Pretty Woman” (1990) who is learning from whom?

In every story, the final purpose of the Mentor is the transmission of something. Their role is to help the protagonist with a legacy. This is usually represented by an object or a teaching of particular importance that has to be delivered to the Hero. A weapon, a tool, an object that can be mysterious at the beginning, but will become essential at a later stage in the journey. What would Luke do without his lightsaber? Or Frodo without the light of Earendil, that he receives from Galadriel? Every James Bond movie has a moment with “Q”, who shows him the new technology and tools he will bring in his new mission. This is from “Goldfinger” (1964): And we as the audience rejoyce so much when, later in the story, 007 finds the way to use each gadget in the most appropriate way!This subtle mechanism is very powerful and effective, because it reflects our need for guidance, learning, transmission of knowledge. And it’s a cycle: in turn, we assume the roles of disciples and teachers, in our life we are called to have from time all these roles: learner, initiate, student, teacher, guide, guru, master.

This reflects the bond between generations that helps us to feel connected and keeps society together, and holds the profound teaching that every encounter of our life bears a potential opportunity for learning. It is our responsibility to acknowledge it, and to treasure the most from our experiences.

Ok, so we get it. Meeting a Mentor is cool. But – what if we are not that lucky? What if our education system or community is not exactly so privileged, or we just grow up in the wrong neighbourhood? We might never get to meet that special person?

Then again, the teaching is simple: go out and find it! At the end of the day, learning is our own responsibility. Yes, we can blame a number of actors for our own misfortune (and we do: the government, the system, the school…), but in the end the Call to Adventure is a challenge to become the protagonists of our own story. To live our life, not to suffer it. And many stories are told about a Hero who goes out on a difficult quest, just to meet the right teacher.

kill-bill

sometimes it takes a good mentor to defeat an evil one. Exactly the Bride’s mission in “Kill Bill” (2003)

When this is completed successfully, the disciple has actually earned the right to learn. Yes, that’s right: what if we saw learning and development as a prize to earn, rather than a right? Would we treat it more sensibly, maybe seeing it as an honour and an opportunity, rather than some boring duty? And at the same time, shouldn’t we see our teachers as highly respectable people, who grant us one of the biggest gifts ever imaginable? In the most memorable stories, learning and experience are always valued and well-deserved rewards. Do we treat the topic with the same respect in our everyday life in the “material world”?

Please note! Rescogita doesn’t own the pictures used in this article. They are shared under fair use for educational purposes. All rights belong to the respective owners.

World Autism Awareness Day

Last year’s theme was “Transition to Adulthood – by becoming a full and equal participant in the social, economic and political life of the community.”  And we would like to stress that even more today, as this year was very demanding on everyone, with uncertainties, a looming pandemic and crisis, there has been a rise in mental distress situation among young people, and worsening of conditions of those who already before lived with mental challenges an discomforts. 

As life slowly may be returning to “normality” soon, it is important that life events restart, and as we promised ourselves in these months “let’s get a better humanity out of this traumatic experience” and how can we do that? By thinking about inclusion and diversity, which starts by removing stigmas and unintentional discrimination towards people on the spectrum, a pitying and charitable attitude is of no help at all, on the contrary can stress and mark out the differences (as well as creating more distance) nor the fear of not knowing how to handle the situation when people on the spectrum attend learning and social events. 

Just keep in mind that ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) is really broad, and can include social skills challenges, repetitive behaviours, affect speech or nonverbal communication, and very often people on the spectrum and their families tend to avoid social and community events, not to create excitement that triggers the “unusual” behaviour, or caused by extra stress of trying to cope with the social situation, and many rather avoid such occasions not to have to explain or for fear of being misunderstood. 

Loud sounds and voices, large unfamiliar crowds, flashing lights can be quite challenging for people of any age who are on the spectrum, who tend to have a preference for predictability and routines, which often is the comfortable and preferred environment. A search engine search will help you to identify plenty of useful advice and tips on how to make your community, social and learning events more inclusive towards autism and everyone else. “Let’s get a better humanity out of this!we did promise that. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

April’s Fish

We at Rescogita thought of starting this day with a prank, instead decide to give you some fun and trivia of why the 1st day of April is dedicated to fool, jokes and pranks, and hope you do enjoy. 

It believed that this tradition goes all the way back to ancient Egypt, thought to be honest the initial meaning is pretty much lost, the first official recount talks about a festival called Hilaria in ancient Rome (yep that was the actual name believe it or not) while celebrating Goddess Cybele masked people were allowed to mock and prank anyone, even the nobility. 

Another claim is that it started in France when in the XVIth century they changed calendars, from celebrating new year on the 1st of April to the 1st of January, and those who forgot and celebrated still in April were called fools and had  paper cut fish stuck to their back. 

Really there are a lot stories on the origins of April’s fool, some absurd some less, and the conclusion is that if someone tells us there is a fool’s day where we can hoax, prank, joke and make fun, as a species we’ll probably take it, as any excuse to have fun. By the way, why a fish? 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach.

Colourful Love

The Hindu Holi Festival of Spring is about to start

Ever heard of the Hindu festivity called Holi? What if we called it the Festival of Spring or Festival of Love? Still nothing? How about Festival of colours? Aha now it starts ringing a bell of crowded colourful streets and people chucking colours in the air and at each other. That is today! And the celebration is good vanquished evil!  

Spring has arrived, and with spring comes life, evil winter is behind and it is a reason to celebrate allowing both the natural world and love to fully blossom, come together with neighbourhoods, towns and communities and celebrate the joy of life, play like a child, laugh as loud as you can, wrongdoings are forgotten and forgiven and disputes resolved at last. 

It lasts a whole day and a whole night, beginning in the full moon day of Pumima at sunset and ending the day after, with the ritual burning of the demon Holika. 

Possibly not so coincidental this day happens to take place exactly at the time of the first harvest of the year, and the plenty of food it brings after a winter of hardships. 

Across Hindu follower communities we see bonfires lighting the night and religious rituals, as prayer and services aim at the destruction of internal evil, reminiscing the end of evil Holika. Then comes one of the most loved parts of this festivity, the morning, you can run the streets and squares and smear people with colours and throw buckets of water at each other and simply play and have fun, regardless of social class, stranger, relative, elders. The colour “fight” gives no quarter, and no street, temple,  park, square is a safe haven you can’t escape getting drenched and become very colourful. All of this accompanied by singers and dancers celebrating life, once that is out of the system, it is possible to clean up and in the evening pay a visit to loved and dear ones and renew the emotional bonds. 

Happy Holi everyone! 

The Passover Celebration – Pesach

Between the 27th of March and 4th of April, from sunset to sunset is the Passover celebration, known as Pesach. This festivity celebrates the freedom from slavery and Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, once again free. 

This day is celebrated by enjoying a seder, which is a traditional dinner consumed tonight in Jewish households, made of ritual food such as bread without yeast, bitter herb, and a mixture of sweet fruits, nuts and wine called the Haroset. Although different traditions can be found concerning food to be consumed on this day, mostly it is about having a simple and poor diet in remembrance of what the Israelites endured under Egyptian slavery. And it is not only about food, on this night the Hallel psalms are recited and sang from morning to evening. 

This day also marks the beginning of Omer, which is a forty-nine day period to recall the count between the offerings that were brought to the Ancient temple in Jerusalem, following the 49 days comes the Shavuot, celebrating the time when on Sinai the Torah was received. 

Pesach resembles very much Christian Easter and many other celebrations coming from the lunar calendar around this time of the year, between the 3d and 4th full moon, and each of these festivities celebrate life, resurrection, freedom, and survival, and that is only natural that the time of Spring’s rebirth is celebrated by the people of the Norther Hemisphere regardless of their ethnic, cultural and faith background. Likely to be among the first festivity to be celebrated across the very first human communities, where liberation, journeys, return to the original land of the foreparents, being alive and having survived strife and hardships is something that needs to be recalled, and celebrated by mind, body, heart and soul, as a sign of belonging to the self, the community and the world as a whole. Happy Passover to everyone.

THE REFUSAL OF THE CALL (Part 3)

By Carmine Rodi Falanga

 This article was originally published on “To Say Nothing of the Cat”, the author’s personal blog where he explores the connections between storytelling and contemporary culture

What happens when we are faced with a challenge, a crisis or an invitation to change something from our everyday life? What is our most common reaction to a new situation, or to an important decision to take? The second stage of the Hero’s Journey deals with it. The last time you have been confronted with the possibility of a life change (big or small: quitting your job, moving home, ending an important relationship, having to start a diet…) what was your answer? Let’s face it, unless the change was really welcome, or you are a true adventure lover, probably the answer was something like this

Tobey Maguire as Spider Man became a great subject for memes.Or maybe “Not now, please. Can I wait a little longer?”. Or even “I am perfectly fine as I am, I don’t want to change!”. And so on. To be honest, it’s an absolutely natural reaction to have. We all love a little bit of stability in our life, leaving our comfort zone sometimes is really not that easy, and we feel protected an safe in our “Ordinary World“. It is, as said, a healthy and common instinct that keeps us confined to our familiar territory.

Maybe the reason is that if we go back to the time when humans were living in caves, going out was really a dangerous business. Inside, there was the protection of the community and a warm fire that kept many dangers away. Outside, we would be without shelter or company, and the environment was extremely hostile, full of predators and potential threats. There are many different studies (here just one, for example) to support the idea that we fear change because at the end of the day it’s a lot of hard work. That’s why even when we are rationally convinced about a particular solution, there comes something subconscious, a tingling in our spine, or maybe goosebumps, telling us “mmmh are you really sure?”. Maybe it’s better to check all the small letters, first.

Bilbo is maybe the only one who reads all the “terms and conditions” before signing for something.This human, very human reaction is of course reflected in the Hero’s Journey. It comes right after the Call to Adventure and is closely connected with the Guardians of the Threshold, of whom we will talk later. It’s a series of actions that stop the hero from starting the journey.

Maybe it could be somebody trying to stop him (or her). Or a condition, an event, material obstacles of some kind. Or simply, very commonly, just self doubt? Stories, excuses, the little voices in our head telling us that we are not ready, not brave, strong, old, young, qualified enough? (and if you are thinking “I don’t hear such voices in my head” right now… it’s exactly of them, I am talking about!) We have already seen the reaction of Odysseus when the messenger came to call him to take part to the war of Troy. He would rather pretend to be mad, instead of leaving his beloved wife and his newborn baby boy. He didn’t want to go to adventure – maybe he was feeling that his Journey would be a particularly challenging one?

Odysseus has himself tied to the mast, to resist the the mermaids songs.

Our tradition is very rich with stories when the main character is stopped, or stops him/herself, from answering the call. This is to reflect this familiar, very natural instinct we all have. To make us feel free from judgement and make it easier for us to identify with the main characters of the tale.

 As we said, change is always hard work, and the road of our Hero’s Journey can indeed be full of challenges. If Heroes such as Odysseus, Kate Winslet’s Rose from “Titanic“, even Superman were waivering with self doubt before accepting their fate and jumping into action, why can’t we?

“If you jump, I jump”. This is the important teaching of this phase. Self doubt, fear and anxiety are normal before a test, natural reactions we all have, possibly with reasons well rooted in our evolution as human beings. It’s really OK to feel inadequate.

What matters the most is what comes next. What do all legendary heroes do at this point? What happens when we are hit by the moment of self doubt and uncertainty?

There is no question here. Once the Call to Adventure has been heard, it’s only a matter of time before the Journey starts. Actually – it has already started! Because remember, The “Refusal of the Call” is part of the story, not of some foreword. So this is the lesson to learn: when facing these nasty self-sabotaging, paralyzing actions or judgements, don’t fight them: accept them. Embrace the voices as part of yourself – maybe they are even familiar voices? Can you associate real faces, to them? Try to wonder why. But avoid judgement. Don’t feel guilty, don’t victimise yourself. It’s all part of a story, and deep inside you know it. You are in good company: you are just the last of a long, long series of heroic characters who all exitated in their moment of challenge. And then, gathered their resources and went on to adventure.

“I can’t do this”. That’s why I especially like this phase of the Journey. It’s about letting go of self doubts and all the unnecessary burden that we carry with us all the time. It reminds us that when a challenge comes, our first instinct is to close our eyes, or run away from it.

And that it’s absolutely normal. We are all the same in this: heroes and ordinary people, fictional semi-gods and regular guys. It can be really beneficial to learn how to recognise this pattern when it emerges, so we identify it, welcome it… and STOP IT.

A classic from Bob Newhart.

Modern psychoanalysis identifies neurosis, or even psychosis, that can manifest here. They are semi-conscious, subconscious or even inconscious behaviours that are activated when we feel under stress.

And change is always stressful. Actions of self sabotage that are triggered to stop us from going to adventure, and oh boy, they can be nasty, much more real than some voices in our head!

A bad sore throat, or a rash on your face just the day before a job interview. Somebody in our family who has something unexpected happening to them. A flat tire. A twisted ankle before a decisive football match. The feeling of not remembering anything at all just before an important school test. Do these stories sound familiar? I bet they do. It’s because they are part of our story. And it’s all been written and told before, countless times. Remember, you are not alone. Just like Frodo is tempted to give the One Ring back to Gandalf, the moment he realises all that it will bring into his life, his beloved County, the people he loves. He really doesn’t want to become the hero of such a big, big story. But can he turn down the challenge? Even if change can be scary and we might feel not ready for it, from it we depend. Our life is about constant change; every single cell of our body changes (even if not exactly every 7 years); and we simply need new inputs and novelty in our life, to thrive. In other words, once the Call has been heard, the story is spinning already, and there is no stopping it.

Please note! Rescogita doesn’t own the pictures used in this article. They are shared under fair use for educational purposes. All rights belong to the respective owners.

Magha Puja, Community Building

The 2nd most important Buddhist celebration of the year is now, Magha Puja, in memory of a gathering between 1250 disciples and Buddha 10 months after his enlightenment. The day is dedicated to community, by honouring this very first ideal community (Sangha) created by Buddha and his followers, which is often understood as a monastic community. This day celebrates community, all community builders and organisers and their legacy of bringing into organised communities resilience, unity and harmony according to the precepts of Buddhism. 

How else can community day be celebrated if not by gathering together, meditating, listening to teaching, giving onto others and just being together and performing as a community. 

Traditionally this celebration is held on a full moon day, on the 3d month of the traditional lunar calendar and named after the star that appears closest to the full moon in this time of the year. And on this day Buddha taught his enlightened disciples about the pillar principles that summarise Buddhism, an continued to do so for 20 years : 

  1. Patience, restraint  and austerity delivering no harm or injury
  2. Strive for wholeness, do no evil and purify the mind 
  3. Self discipline and moderation in lifestyle 

As human life, culture and faith moves along with the rhythm of the planet, in South East Asia Magha Puja also marks the beginning of the agricultural year following the first harvest. 

How is it celebrated?  By meditation, prayer and actions that bring about self-improvement, processions, lighting of fires and attending prayers and making offerings at the temples. In some areas celebration envisages setting animals free. 

The Night of Forgiveness

Today is a day of celebration for the Muslims, as lights and candles shine through the night lit with fireworks, where those families who lost a beloved are gifted food and sweets by the community and acts of charity towards the less fortunate and disadvantaged are performed, while the faithful try to spend the whole night in prayer and contemplation and commemorate their ancestors. Moreover, for Shia Muslims it is also the celebration of Imam al Mahdi. It is the time when Allah writes the destiny of humans, deciding on lifespans, fortunes and misfortunes and eligibility for the faithful to perform the Hajj pilgrimage. This is also the day when Allah bestows forgiveness unto humans for their sins, except to those who harbour hatred and violence in their hearts. 

“…The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said that Allah has manifested on the night of mid-Shaban and forgiveness of all his creation…” 

On this night celebrations, prayer, charity and community mutual care will take place for many Muslim communities from the Central Asian ranges and steppe down to the Arabic peninsula until the coasts of the Atlantic ocean, as Sunni, Sufi and Shi’a celebrate the Night of Forgiveness, children are gifted with sweets as they roam the neighbourhoods. 

Teachings of Mahavir

Jainism is one of the most ancient faith humanity has known that live by an ancient wisdom grounded on the five main vows the faithful followers take;  non-violence, truth, honesty, sexual continence and non-possessiveness. Leading the Jain faithful to lead often an ascetic, vegetarian life with a strong focus on community mutual wellbeing. 

Most of the Jain and in India, and today we want to congratulate them with Mahavir Jayanti, that is the birth of Mahavira who lived at the same time as Buddha, and is the last of th 24 sages that fathered Jainism, and some traditions believe to be the son of Siddhartha and Trisala. 

Mahavir is revered as the key prophet of the Jain as a guide to the path of non-violence towards all living beings, as he himself lived a life of poverty and deliberate non-possessions despite coming from a noble family and spent his life wandering and teaching the wisdoms he learnt through meditation and prayer. 

On this day about 4 million Jain will be praying and fasting, renewing their vows and refreshing their learnings from Mahavira’s teachings. 

World Water Day

Water means different things to different people.

This conversation is about what water means to you.

How is water important to your home and family life, your livelihood, your cultural practices, your wellbeing, your local environment?

By recording – and celebrating – all the different ways water benefits our lives, we can value water properly and safeguard it effectively for everyone.

Tell us your stories, thoughts and feelings about water.”

Resource

How easy it is to take things for granted, open the tap and water comes out, turn the knob and the shower begging, fill the pot and make a soup, and if you are somewhere in the North-Western hemisphere it is likely that this water is even drinkable. That is untrue in many parts of the world today, as the prophecies foretold two decades ago are now taking place as we speak, clean water resources becoming the new gold and cause of war and suffering across many parts of our planet. 

Throughout our evolution our species always moved an sought freshwater in order to live, survive and settle, at times successful and other times failing epically and destroying those very same resources for good leaving behind us barren lands and deserts for trying to control and exploit it. However the vast majority of human settlements, be it villages or large cities, exist because at some point settlers found freshwater sources and decided to stop there. Yes, we are well aware that here we are stating the obvious, and very often it is the obvious that we are most forgetful about, as said above, taking it for granted. 

To then state more obvious things: We need sustainable management of freshwater resources and we need clean water, sanitation and hygiene. 

All we ask is for you to take a minute and join the website above, World Water Day, and do write in your own words thoughts, feelings, reflections, impressions, what does water mean to you, what meaning hold for you this vital and core element? Really think about it! 

World Poetry Day

It is said that a feature that distinguishes humans from the rest of the animal kingdom is creativity, which dates more or less to 250.000 years ago, dates of the first cave paintings, that together with an ability for a complex language which developed our brains’ capacity of storing memory and to hand it over to one another and generations to come. 

When we think of poetry perhaps the image is that of a romantic person putting in verse and prose feelings, experiences and life, as well as more than life situations, that is true and not only, it goes beyond the quilt on the parchment and candlelight sighs becoming wondrous words. 

Poetry is memory, is affirmation of identity and acknowledging the existence of feelings and thoughts and their expression into our own internal language, that of the mind, the heart and the soul, and expressed as communication with ourselves and with others.

Poetry is more than written word, prosaic structure and language regulation, above that poetry is that quality of beauty which makes emotions intense, regardless how it is expressed, written, orally, visually, and very likely the most ancient form of art we as humans have developed. 

Are only humans capable of creating poetry? No, it can be found in the colourful patterns of a sunset, witnessing a sunrise in the woodlands, watching swirling sands in the desert, or in animals nurturing their cubs, as a matter of fact poetry is everywhere, what is uniquely human is the recognition of poetry, the sensemaking of poetry and meaning-making as what we experience is transformed into a personal internal meaning, and transforming it into emotions and feelings.  Be that an ancient poem written by someone in love, be it a saga of legends and heroes, be it a tree blooming in spring, a mountain stream or watching a child sleep.  Poetry is more than the act of creating poems, is the ability to feel and have emotions on how we as individuals and communities experience life and this world and communicate it, nothing more, nothing less. 

Happy World Poetry Day

Its a New Year on the Caspian Sea

A most happy Novruz day to everybody who celebrates one of the most ancient rituals in humanity, the feast that marks the beginning of Spring and the New Year for the Zoroastrian faith and still celebrated today by the peoples living around the Caspian Sea and all the way to Asian Steppes and as far as the Mediterranean Shores. 

Legend says that Zoroaster himself created this holiday, and although it is first described in written records only in the 2nd century BC, mentions go as far as the 7th century BC as a celebration of all the nations that made the Persian Empire. 

Regardless of the Soviet attempts to eradicate religious celebrations in its republics such as Christmas and Novruz by replacing them with the 1st of january, this festivity is so rooted that it survived through the repression and continued being celebrated as a mark of identity, roots and desire to feast upon the return of light and warmth. 

In Azerbaijan this is probably the most felt celebration of the year, preparation goes as far as four weeks before Novrus when tuesday nights are lit with bonfire, sometimes with youths jumping across the flames for good health and fortune, and every one of the tuesdays is associated with one of the elements, water, fire, earth and wind. The first concerns the renewal of nature, the second rebirth, the third soil and life and finally wind is what brings spring and paints the trees green. The Zoroastrian faith beliefs God created humans mixing soil and water, made solid by fire, and used wind to give life, hence the sacredness of the components of the Universe. 

Besides fire we see sprouts of what in every household tied in red ribbons and candles lit, eggs are coloured and sweets are baked nonstop in the days before Novruz. Then children place empty hats at the doorstep of their neighbours who have a duty to fill them the sweets, fruit and even little presents. 

Novruz dinner is lush and a lengthy process of eating traditional holiday foot, and somewhere is still alive the tradition where family members throw water on each other, to cleanse away the worries and troubles of the previous year and make a fresh entry into the new one. 

Happy Novruz ! 

Welcoming Spring in the Woods

Today’s the Spring Equinox, that’s right! Winter’s over and we can all tell each other, well done! We made it through the cold and dark, and here is our reward, longer sunny days, lush green and blossoms and sunrays filling up our batteries. Coincidentally, and maybe not so much, today is also International Forests Day, a day to celebrate the existence in our lives of trees, forests, jungles and that place in nature that harbours so much life and who allows us and our planet to breath clean air and thus to be fully alive, while Spring is something that concerns the Northern Hemisphere, forests and trees concern us all. 

As a matter of fact, astronomically Spring started yesterday morning at sunrise, but traditionally we keep on celebrating the 21st. 

Seasons, until very recently, were what regulated our lives no wonder in so many faiths and beliefs the Sun was perceived as a life-giving divinity. As Earth’s rotation and sunlight told us when to set on our migration for our nomadic ancestors and when to plant the fields for our farming foreparents, followed by harvest, celebration, storage and the cycle begins again, and again. That is also why so many cultures attribute specific spiritual and superstition meaning to the transition from winter to Spring, as faith and culture celebrations of life or vanquishing death happen in this month and that is no coincidence that life is celebrated when life starts or restarts its cycle. Are we so different really around this planet of ours? 

So this calls for a celebration! And how are we going to celebrate this magnificent day? By talking a walk in a forest and give our gratitude, and here are some good reasons why: 

  • 1/5th of humanity livelihood and income depends on forests
  • Forests territories provide 75% of fresh water supply for all our needs
  • Forests absorb greenhouse gases, build more resilient landscapes, regulate water flow, improve soil quality, and are migratory corridors for both plants and animals. 

Then we invite you too to honour our life companions since millions of years, trees by taking today a respectful walk in the woods nearer to you, renew that friendship and cooperation that has benefited us so much over the millenia, and perhaps think about how to pay back. 

Wish you all a fantastic Equinox, and a fruitful and pleasant International Forest Day.

No to Racism yes to Biology

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Racism and Discrimination and here some news for you from the scientific community, biologically racism makes no sense whatsoever from whichever point you look at it. This is no news at all, we have known that since 200 years and studies on genetics and evolution. And yet talk of Race still has an influence on society, economy, politics and culture and even personal identity. Any DNA test can disprove any of those fields and show that we all are a mixed with one another. In other words, the concept of race has zero scientific and genetic grounds. As a matter of fact, our very first genes come from somewhere around Centre-North Africa and from there Homo Sapiens started to migrate across the globe, therefore the differences found among humans from different parts of the world as so small to allow a margin of “racial” difference that amounts to 0.5% tops. Try to do your maths, we have been around about 2 million years, those first humans appeared around 300.000 years ago, and started moving around the world just about 60.000 years ago. What little mutations human underwent in our migration were mere adaptations to the new environments were we settled and what diet it offered. 

So what does that teach us? That racism is not based on any science, nor rational conclusion or evidence, it is a mere reflection of culture, stereotyping, branding, and developing prejudices (that is a judgement with an emotion attached) which is based on a false narrative dictated by a mixture of different looks plus observations that rather reflect social upstanding than actual racial differences.  In classical times the Southern civilisations such as the Greek and Roman looked down on their northern neighbours branding them as barbarians, few centuries later the roles swapped while the rich and industrialised Northern Europe was the destination of migrants from the poorer southern countries. All that has changed was the social and economic status. Racism is yes fought with a promotion of an inclusive culture that sees in diversity an added value rather than a threat, eliminating those behaviour of fearing-the-different for the sake and protection of our own tribe, and to realising that now we are a global tribe, that if in the past our threat to survival was that the neighbouring tribe would steal our cattle and crops, today’s survival threats depend on mutual cooperation and unity, as a global tribe, to counter the climate emergency, viruses and the growing social disparities and inequalities which generate discrimination. That is why today more than ever it is important to set the grounds for this new culture, starting from education primarily, and secondarily to business practices, because by discriminating we are only making our societies and economies poorer. Racism and discrmination make no sense whatsoever, culturally, scientifically and economically.

Wish you a joyful International Happiness Day

Listen to the sea waves chant 

Listen to the nightly song of humanity’s thoughts

Listen to how people are resting after a busy day, 

Look at how enchanted they are by the sunset

Wonderful gift from the setting sun. 

Now breathe the air brought by the wind carrying

Perfume of flowers, all they want is some humility.

If you want you can yell and shout out to the world

How strong is your wish to give back, 

If you want you can sing, because 

Somewhere near you joy is hiding, sing 

Because you can do it, because you want to, 

You can play, you can scream, you can take back your smile.

You know they lied, told you joy’s dead and vanquished, 

It is a lie, because joy’s alive, within you. 

So even if its just a moment, I beg you to feel it, 

Hold tight and unto it, don’t let it die, 

Even if deep in worries and chaos, let it be heard, 

Because you need joy as much as I do. 

it is late, but please stay with me a bit longer, 

Let us enjoy this breeze we discovered tonight, 

Let it gives us strength before tomorrow comes

When we return among those who suffer and hope, 

But we will know that somewhere hidden

Joy exists, because you want it, because you can. 

Scout Song 

To All The Fathers

Across many countries of the world today fathers and fatherhood is celebrated, on this day it is true for most Catholic countries, as it is St.Joseph’s Day, although from research seems a large amount of cultures across the world (though on different days) have festivities aimed at celebrating fatherhood. Then what is fatherhood anyways? We want to answer that by talking about Paternal Instinct.

Certain modern narratives deny the existence of paternal instincts, or develop theories whereas maternal instinct is more widespread across human women than the paternal one across male humans. Is that true? Let’s find out. 

Children do develop attachments to their fathers and develop very strong bonds across different observed and anthropologically studied cultures, although it is not the same type of bond as that developed towards the mother, because of the different roles the child observers fathers play in the household, thus playing a just as vital role into a child’s development. Here we want to stress that the bond is mutual and the sense of attachment to the offspring starts already while the baby is still in the womb. In biological terms it has been noticed that in the months, sometimes early years of a child a father’s testosterone levels drop, high testosterone is related to aggressive behaviours, so a lower level makes space for the development of more bonding behaviours. 

Paternal instinct towards a child whether biological offspring or not brings about natural and instinctive behaviours such as consoling, nurturing, assisting in daily chores and provide one’s own strength to aide and support the child, participating in those baby routines. 

So where is the difference between maternal and paternal? Pediatricians and psychologists observed that fathers tend to be more kinaesthetic of bodily in their interaction with children, meaning they get more physical, while maternal instinct has stronger focus on the environment and tools, and that i pretty similar across most cultures.  Secondly, fathers’ interaction with children has a focus to prepare the child for the future, while the maternal has a stronger focus on the here and now. Some evolutionary scholars believe this to be unconscious and not a decision but rather a natural behaviour. An example is a mother playing a game with her child lets the child win, the father playing the same game does not let the child win in order to foster learning. Therefore paternal instinct is very focused on teaching and training and earning accomplishments. The third aspect of paternal instinct is promoting impulse control, therefore becoming role models for their children and help them develop healthy behaviours, attitudes and ethical values, and instinctively children often look at fathers for external behavioural ethics. 

Having said that, Happy Fathers’ Day to all of our fathers, and to all of you who are fathers, celebrate the values that was brought into our lives, and the value you brought into your offspring.

THE CALL TO ADVENTURE (Part 2)

By Carmine Rodi Falanga

 This article was originally published on “To Say Nothing of the Cat”, the author’s personal blog where he explores the connections between storytelling and contemporary culture

Hello again! I want to make a more detailed analysis of the different stages of the Hero’s Journey. This is the first of 12 articles I want to write, each dedicated to one phase of the Journey. I will use the version by Christopher Vogler – see below – and for each stage I will include examples from movies and other sources, to better illustrate the possible variations from the canon and in how many ways the “Monomyth”, or single story, has been told through the ages. The journey in 12 stages is well represented here

how-and-why-vogler-journey

and it looks like a straight line, although is probably best to imagine it as an arc (“narrative arc“, or “story arc”, more on it in some future posts… maybe), or a circle. Well, enough. Ready for number 1? Let’s go!

The call to what?

We have all been there. Just imagine your everyday life routine, waking up with the alarm, getting out of bed, the usual breakfast. We are in our comfort zone. Everything is familiar there, things, places, people… nothing is threatening, no new experiences to challenge us. All is – or seems to be! – under control.

Now, just a moment: being in our comfort zone is important. It’s the place where we recharge our batteries, elaborate our feelings and thoughts, where we can reflect on the adventures we make. In fact, it’s the space where we transform what happens to us, into our experience (our wisdom). It’s the place for storytelling, where learning emerges and is shared. It’s very important to have such a place: the risk of being always away, always on, is high (getting lost in each of the two worlds of the Journey is dangerous. We can also refer to it as “burn out”. More on the risks of getting lost, in some later post).
That’s why every adventure starts from this special place: we need to have a place to call “home”, and it doesn’t matter if it is a cozy, welcoming space a rather challenging environment or a dark, hard to get hideout what is really important is that such a place exists. Remember: familiar environment and people, no challenges ahead, rest. Maybe some dark clouds are gathering at the horizon… but at this point of the story we might not be aware of it yet.

Then what happens?

A message comes. Change is imminent, action is required. This may be a welcome fact, or not. Natural or catastrophic (“catastrophe” as a word comes from Greek and doesn’t necessarily mean something bad: it is simply a turning point in a story). Expected, or not. What is important is this: something important is going to happen.

DSC_0635

Let’s stay on this fact for a while. Our natural instinct seems to be driving us to change and to explore. Look at how hungry babies are for new experiences: they seem unstoppable, reach out, touch, eat, crawl, walk, and enjoy every single moment of it while in fact they are discovering their new world. They can actually put themselves in physical danger in their quest for new experiences. And yet, so few of these “accidents” have consequences!

Think about it for a second: how did we, as a species, manage to evolve and survive despite our tendency to put ourselves into trouble? And here is the thing. We have not evolved despite our thirst for exploration: on the contrary, we owe our success to it, to the pleasure we have in a new discovery, in a new challenge.

(here is a nice TED talk on what are the effects of dopamine on our brain, and how can we get that kind of kick in perfectly harmless and legal ways) Does it sound familiar? I bet it does. But then why is it that we, as babies, are so enthusiastic about games, challenges and new experiences and then as adults, we grow out of it? The answer is that we never lose that instinct; we simply, for a number of different reasons (culture, education, social position, our fears and insecurities…), forget about it. But it’s still there. And that’s why the “call to adventure” is so important.

The messenger

And also important is how the message is delivered, or by whom. Is it a natural sign, an animal, an event? Or is it a person? And by what means, technology, tool? One of the reasons why the Hero’s Journey is so powerful, is that its possibilities are endless. A visionary and clever storyteller is always able to introduce new elements to revitalize his story, or to play with the classic archetypes to create an original and appealing mix. This applies of course also in the “Call to Adventure”, a preliminary but very important stage of the adventure. The message, and the way it is delivered, help to set the story and the way it will be unfolding.

If it’s brought by an animal, or a natural event (a storm, wind, rain) – then maybe our character will face challenges related to his/her “wild”, physical nature. To learn its place in the natural order of things, maybe?  To accept the inevitable truth of life cycles? Or the importance of a natural quality of which he or she is not fully aware yet. Or to learn how to follow, sometimes, instinct over reason. Only to name a few examples.

Is the message delivered by a person? Then probably the challenges of the hero will be more related to the social sphere, to the way he/she lives in relation to other people, love and relationship, family, friends; or more universal values like friendship, selflessness, compassion, parenthood…

And what if the “message” is a supernatural or mysterious event, such as a gate opening all of a sudden in a wardrobe, or a comet passing in the sky? Then we are setting the scene for a story related with the invisible, spiritual world, with something transcendent or immaterial that he will need to learn; or with the ability to overcome the human nature and develop new heroic abilities. You see? It works! Let’s see now a few famous examples that can help us to analyze and to better illustrate the points we just made.

1) in “The Wizard of Oz” (1939) Dorothy is a young girl living in Kansas (her Ordinary World). Her farm seems so small and limiting and she just can’t wait to go and explore the big wide world! But is this really how the things are? Can happiness really be found only leaving home and travelling to distant places? Frank Baum, who wrote the novel in 1900, and Victor Fleming, who directed the movie some 40 years later, seem to have a different opinion on the matter.

Let’s see:

so the “message” is the evil Miss Gulch (who later in the story will impersonate the Evil Witch) delivering a legal notice: Toto, the dog, must be taken away. But what happens soon after? The smart puppy escapes!

It may seem an easy, almost childish story element. But it delivers a very sophisticated narrative mechanism: we are presented with a sharp contrast between the human, rational world, made by laws, regulations, prohibitions – and the wild natural world, represented by Toto. And why shouldn’t a little dog be free to explore the environment? To play and be free?

And the outcome is clear. No matter how hard we try to put our natural instincts in a box, the natural order of things always prevails (= the little dog escapes). And how happy are we, as audience, seeing the sweet Toto restored to his freedom? It’s obvious that the story works: we subconsciously identify our desire for freedom and nature with the destiny of the little dog. And by the way, Toto will again and again solve Dorothy’s problems during the rest of the journey. He is really one of the story’s “engines”.

2) “The Matrix” (1999). The movie really is a concentrated encyclopedia on all things related to the “Hero’s Journey”. All the elements are there, and in the right place (maybe this helps to explain the huge impact it had on popular culture?). Thomas Anderson lives a double life. In the first, he is just a regular computer programmer “who pays his taxes and helps his landlady take out the garbage”. That’s Ordinary World, with capital letters. But there is more: he is also an extraordinary hacker, known by the name of Neo. He is good, just doesn’t know how good  at the moment we first meet him. It’s clear that he is not happy at the moment with his life: sleepless nights, no motivation, there must be something more important out there… Very interesting, no?

In fact we have all three possible ways to deliver a message: the “supernatural”, here in the form of a mysterious, advanced form of technology (remembering the law: “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”) that is speaking to him directly. How is that possible? What is “The Matrix”?

And then, the sentence: “Follow the white rabbit”. Not only it’s a clear reference and a homage to “Alice in Wonderland“: it’s the element of nature! A white rabbit? From a computer screen? And how should we follow it?

Finally, the tri-fecta: a bunch of strange but somehow attractive (aren’t they?) people comes knocking at the door, inviting our hero to go out and have some fun. And look! The white rabbit is there. This cannot be a coincidence…

So here we are, all forces in the universe (nature, supernatural and human beings) converge here to invite our character out of his comfortable but dull life, to a quest that promises to be really interesting. That’s why, by now, we are already sitting on the edge of our seat, totally captivated by the story.

3) Odysseus in the Iliad. A great war is coming. Menelaus and his ambitious brother, Agamemnon, are gathering all the kings of Greece to wage war against Troy.  Odysseus (Ulysses, as it’s his more contemporary name) is aware of it, but no way he is going to leave. He knows war, and smart as he is he knows it’s not at all that exciting. He is in love with his wife Penelope, and has a newborn son, Telemachus. No way they are going to take him overseas (Ordinary World).

So what to do? He puts together his horse and his ox, and starts ploughing back and forth the beach sand, plowing salt. He pretends to be mad! They will not take him now!

(there will be more on the “Refusal of the call”, in a future post on this blog)

But the messenger is not one to be cheated with so easily: the Greek kings chose to send Palamedes, also known for his wits (in fact he will somehow become the antagonist of Odysseus in the whole Trojan War, and although he will be never again mentioned again by Homer, his accounts will be described in detail by Ovid and Virgil). Palamedes knows that something is not quite right there, and puts the baby Telemachus on the sand, in front of Odysseus’ path. If the King of Ithaca was really mad, he reasoned, he would not mind, trampling over the baby with his horse and ox.

Of course Odysseus deviates at the last moment from his course, saving his beloved son but giving sure proof of his mental sanity. There is no escape: he will have to leave for the war!

The messenger in this case is a man, because Odysseus’ story will be human, so deeply human. He will go to war, spend 10 years fighting against Troy using his best qualities (intellect, rather than brute strenght), managing to have a key role in the events with the brilliant invention of the Trojan Horse. By the way, he will also have his chance to take revenge against Palamedes – but that’s another story.

And yet – his destiny as we know will not be fulfilled yet. He will have to travel for another 10 years trying to come back home, to reach his beloved Ithaca. Another long journey (an actual “Odyssey“!) that will be his real Hero’s Journey, and will be necessary to complete his story, to really make him a Hero. All clear? You see now how it works? The endless possibilities that this simple (simple?) story element contains. How fascinating! 

Please note! Rescogita doesn’t own the pictures used in this article. They are shared under fair use for educational purposes. All rights belong to the respective owners.

Slainte!

17th of March is a most popular celebration of the Saint Patron of Ireland, St. Patrick, and more, as it became the celebration of Irish culture and heritage accompanied by traditional games, dances, foods, parades, of course drinking and wearing green. Which also shows how the party has overcome its religious significance and it always falls during the period of Lent which foresees fasting and austerity, which slightly clashes with the high consumption of ale and Iris bacon. 

Patrick was a Roman Briton who after being released from slavery by Irish marauders returned to the green island to convert its inhabitants to Christianity, and that was also when the clover became the symbol of Ireland, as he used its three leafs to explain the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. 

The festivity expanded from a religious one to a broader cultural one in the Americas, becoming a celebration of Irishness by the large migrant Irish communities that moved to the New World (interestingly enough it started in the Spanish colonies). Until today, when probably the most popular St. Patrick’s Day parade is held in New York, a day of remembrance and reconnection to the roots for Irish-Americans, and celebrated by others too who appreciate a good laugh and a pint of ale. Although it was not always like that, the initial migration to the Americas was made of protestants, and the first mass migration of Irish people following the great famine were catholics and inevitably the two groups clashed, as the first comers greatly discriminated the latecomers and their faith, Saint Patrick’s Day became the occasion to assert identity, rights as well as numbers of Irish catholics, a way to count themselves and show others their numbers and great political weight they could have during elections. 

It is likely that every city in the world has an Irish Pub nowadays, who will likely celebrate Saint Patrick’s, therefore, Slainte to everyone. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach.

THE HERO’S JOURNEY (Part 1)

By Carmine Rodi Falanga

 This article was originally published on “To Say Nothing of the Cat”, the author’s personal blog where he explores the connections between storytelling and contemporary culture

What is “The Hero’s Journey”?

It’s a general term to describe an adventure, a transformative experience, a journey that will determine change, learning and experience.

It’s used now as a general term, but it was first introduced by Joseph Campbell in his amazing work “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” , a comparative study of myths, legends and stories collected from all over the world. Campbell noted that there seems to be one single story that links us all, and called it “The Monomyth” ( = the one story), or “The Hero’s Journey”.

Campbell originally divided the “Journey” in seventeen stages. Later authors have identified more, or less (I like it with twelve phases, like the hours on the clock, as suggested by Christopher Vogler in a memo for scriptwriters for the Disney Studios), but essentially the model stays the same. And here it is, in the essence:

398px-Heroesjourney.svg

Basically, it’s the storyline of each movie, novel, fairy tale or myth that I have ever experienced and loved. Somebody starts small, in their everyday life where everything is under control… mmmh but maybe not quite. Then something happens that brings a change. Willing or not, our character (unwilling to be called “hero” – for now) will start a journey that will change his life, and his world, forever.

Cool uh? Could be the synopsis for any blockbuster movie nowadays, right?

Well – in fact, it is.

Here a very young (and happy) George Lucas, the man behind Star Wars, says that learning about Joseph Campbell at the university gave him the original idea for the story of his movie.
But he was the first filmmaker to admit it and credit Campbell for his work; and since then it has become extremely well known (more recently, see the reference made by George Miller in his Mad Max), even sometimes to fall into some sort of a cliché. Hollywood script writers, game designers, novelists around the world refer now to “The Hero’s Journey” as a fail-proof checklist, to follow as a quality measure of their work. Which is also a danger: that it will soon become abused, and spent. But fear not, there are good news: storytellers, no matter what sources they follow and in which era they live, were and still are divided in two broad groups: the good ones, and the poor ones.

Great storytellers will always be able to surprise and move us. They may be telling a story that is in fact 3,000 years old, but they will do it by bringing a fresh look to it, twists in the storyline, by making their characters more complex, alive and believable. Their stories will be timeless, universal, memorable. They will treat their audience like responsible, honorable, discerning people – not just passive consumers – and will lay out open the invitation for us to pick something from the story and make it ours, forever, so we can grow and be changed by it. Because that’s the main aspiration of the best stories: to live a life on its own.
Poor storytellers will maybe be able to bring the paycheck home at the end of the day, but will not be able to elevate themselves from the cliché source material they use, and their work will not be able to connect to a wide audience or to stand the test of time.
And that is why millions of people still love and talk about “The Odyssey”, “Star Wars” or “The Lord of the Rings”, but in a couple of years, no-one will remember the name of the main character of “Divergent” (it’s Tris, by the way).

But then — What’s So Cool about “The Hero’s Journey”?

In one word: everything!

It’s a strong, universal story that is able to speak to all of us. It’s the archetype of a story, in fact (Campbell was a great admirer of the work by Carl Gustav Jung on psychoanalysis). And we love it, out of our instinct, because it’s the matter of which fairy tales, cartoons, myth, legends, and even the religions are made of. We love it, because that’s how a good story must be told. And we all know it.
I use this concept a lot in my work in education since as a basic storyline it works perfectly well to describe each adventure that has an impact on us. Even every single day, we get out from our comfort zone (often unwillingly); live an experience – pleasant or not; meet people and face challenges; get some sort of learning or ‘reward’; develop a new potential or learn a lesson, and go back to square one. Ready to start all over again.
We design experiential learning events (weekends, one-day, or more) based on this concept and the potential outcome is really powerful. We can become able to infuse magic in every moment of our life, just by drawing power from our own imagination. One example of our work is here!

But also, this can be a very useful road map to interpret my own experiences from everyday life. “Through storytelling, we restore order with imagination”, Walt Disney (played by Tom Hanks) says in “Saving Mister Banks”. Great quote, and nothing is more true. Our life would be a simple series of actions and facts – I wake up, I get up from bed, I eat breakfast… – but through the immense power of our imagination, we are able to transform it into a story that makes sense, and can inspire, motivate, even heal. To the point that it can (and should) be transmitted from person to person, and even to future generations.

With storytelling, we transform our lives in magic and are “spellbound” to it. This is the immensity of the power we are dealing with, even when telling a simple joke, or a story we know. Wow: fascinating.

Please note! Rescogita doesn’t own the pictures used in this article. They are shared under fair use for educational purposes. All rights belong to the respective owners.

Mar Maha Shivaratri

In Reverence of Destruction and Regeneration

Maha Shivaratri celebrates Lord Shiva, God of Destruction and Regeneration and this day is celebrated across Hindu communities across the world, also known as the Great Night of Shiva, the last celebration before the advent of Spring. 

This celebration remembers the time when Shiva danced the Tandava Nritya, starting the primordial creation’s first elements, that of preservation and destruction, and this dance was what saved the world from hutter annihilation, as the God gulped down gallons of negativity in order to protect the world and humanity. 

The wisdom and message of this celebration is that of recalling that among our tasks is that of vanquishing darkness and ignorance, and that is why, symbolically this celebration occurs at night lighting the darkness with torches, lanterns and light, overcoming the darkness. 

Celebrations include offerings of Bael tree leaves to Lord Shiva, strict fasting during the day, and all night vigil and contemplation, reciting the Om Maha Shivaya, Shiva’s mantra in temples and Pujas everywhere. This festivity has also a special connection to fertility and particularly popular among women wishing to become pregnant, celebrating the creation and regeneration of the world brought about by Lord Shiva. 

Shiva’s workship has a specific Lingam, that is a Sansrit symbol, which is a column in a container which is to symbolise female energy and creativity, the union of the body and creation as a whole. 

There is a legend that the Gods Brahma and Vishnu were having an argument on who was the most powerful God among them, at last Shiva showed himself in the shape of a massive fiery Lingam Brahma turned into a Swan and went on a quest to fly high and find where the Lingam ended and Vishnu turned into a boar to find where the Lingam started, both failed and had to acknowledge that Shiva is the most powerful of all. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach.

Mar Lailat Al Miraj

The Prophet’s Ascent to Heaven

On this night the Prophet Muhammad was visited by two Archangels while he slept and they purified his heart and filled him with knowledge and faith. That same night, upon awakening he set on a journey from Mecca to Jerusalem, brought there by the Archangel Gabriel on a winged creature called Buraq, and where he met and prayed with Abraham, Moses and Jesus and then ascended to Heaven, brought by Gabriel through the 7 Heavenly Realms and spoke to God. This journey is known as “Isra”, and the ascent as “Miraj” which means ladder.
Tonight, members of the Islamic Faith celebrate this day with night prayers and keeping the lights on until sunrise, because this night Muhammaed learns the commandment of God for all Muslims to carry out the Salat (the five times per day prayer).
This is one of the most important Muslim celebrations celebrated every year, as adults and children recite the night prayers at home or in the Mosque, reminiscing of the Prophet’s journey, the wisdom and prayers of all of God’s prophets and ascension to Heaven.

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach.

Rescogita is proud to be a feminist company

Far too many people mistake the 8th of March for some sort of Valentine’s Day, to give flowers, presents and chocolates to their fiancees, spouses and female family members, and far too few know what this day stands for. 

It’s all about equal rights, the focus here is in equality not egality, meaning that opportunities are the same in every field and nobody should be discriminated for their gender, in order to make sexism a thing of the past and that all enjoy the same rights, when it comes to career, equal salary, equal protection and an equal culture of respect and appreciation based on the person rather than gender bias. 

On this date, over a hundred years ago, women working in a textile factory went on strike demanding better salaries and working conditions, the industry owners refused to meet their conditions, as a response the workers occupied the factory, as a response the owners locked them inside. That same night a fire started, the burnt down the whole factory, since the doors were locked from the outside the workers could not get out and perished there. It is said that near that factory grew a mimosa tree that happens to blossom in March and therefore became a symbol of this day. 

So if you want to give flowers today, try to find mimosas, and honour the sacrifice of those workers who just wanted better working conditions and the same salary as men got for the same job. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach, and we are proud to define ourselves a feminist company.

Pandemic of Mental Distress

We are all too familiar with the knowledge of what are the symptoms of the global pandemic knowns as Covid-19, or the Corona, and we are all too familiar with the measures that were implemented by national governments and advised by international bodies in order to mitigate the spread of the contagion; lockdowns, quarantines, masks, sanitation, social distancing, promotion of distance smartwork etc. 

There is one element that is starting to come to terms with these days, the aftermath of these necessary and lifesaving measures on our minds, and the reason why mental health experts and support professionals are now, and in the coming months and not years essential workers to re-harmonising individuals and communities impacted by the measures. 

It is undeniable that this has impacted everybody’s mental health to a certain extent, in a time in human history where depression, anxiety, stress and other ailments and disorders are starting to affect humanity on an unprecedented scale according to pre-pandemic data, and now worsened. 

Fear :

Death and sickness are indeed an unavoidable part of life and everyone is aware of it, this awareness of one’s own frailty and temporary presence on this planet has been amplified as this relatively unknown virus with a behaviour incomprehensible to most has made its way through every corner of the world. The natural fear of death and sickness has amplified, dreading a positive test, and wondering how heavy and deadly it might be. Creating greater insecurity towards the future and uncertainties, shaking the very fundamentals of identity and purpose. Moreover, the isolation and solitude falling ill does

Isolation and Loneliness :

Social distancing, limits in interaction with loved and cared ones, lacking social opportunities, partly replaced by an artificial online world, creates a sense of disconnection from the rest of the people in this world, online personas only go so far as in replacing that social need, demanding to gain skills of self-reliance and self-support which for some can’t be learnt easily, as human interaction is unlearnt and individuals become cocooned in their own world, homes and rooms as the new reality. 

Depression :

People who already were on the brink of depression in pre-covid times, or categories at risk, mostly fell into this mental plague of this century, as thoughts become more fatigued, motivation and strength of will drops dramatically, and the person becomes sucked into a vortex of negativity, while being alone, socially distanced from support and entering habits of isolation. 

Anxiety :

How long will the pandemic last? Will vaccines work? How many waves will their be? Will the virus mutate and become more deadly? What are the long term effects? And more such questions which cast a shadow onto future visions generates anxiety, just as meeting fellow humans on the streets masked and suspiciously looking at each other, the relief of getting home and removing the mask, the smell of sanitation, sleep becomes irregular, restlessness, unexplainable tiredness and lack of motivation, problems with concentration, faster heartbeats and a general feeling of hopelessness, all increased and amplified in many people. 

Stress :

Time is one of the most precious things we possess, and having time to simply wait for the situation to get better, while academic and professional goals and needs are at risk, along with the economic uncertainty of collapsing employment opportunities and wealth, as companies go bankrupt, close down, and economic disparity affects pupils and students attending distance learning, having family members, colleagues, neighbours falling ill and realising being at risk, all of this generate major stressors that heavily impact the mind, thoughts start racing, worries are amplified, decision-making becomes a hard task, feeling unmotivated and unfocused, anger and restlessness, have all increased. 

Burnout :

Regardless of the pandemic, and in distance/online mode, one still needs to study or work, and what many imagined  as luxury to work/study from home in comfortable slippers and mug of tea, turned out to speed up the productive processes, as the social interactions have been reduced to a minimum and all the work has turned out to be task/goal oriented, and chances to share and experience the process with fellow students or co-workers, grabbing that coffee break, go for a drink after working hours is gone, replaced by  online processes and meetings which have intensified, unclear working hours (often increasing) and hardly no sociability. 

The above is just to mention a few, and comes from observing family, community and friends around and not from a clinical background. Worrying data out there is that nobody is exempt, Though it was particularly striking to see the impact on youth, what is considered to be the safest category from the pandemic; increase of self-harm, increased suicide attempts, and all of the above, because this is not the age for isolation and loneliness, it is the age of first kisses, fights, bonding with friends, experiencing, doing stupid and smart stuff and the opportunities for all of that is simply gone. 

However it is not all doom and gloom, this is the situation and we know it, and we are equipped and have the competences to deal with it, bring resilience and healing through our professions such as therapists, counsellors, psychologists, coaches, trainers etc. Simply we need to develop a more ecopsychological approach, that means to balance the services and support offered to the affected people in dealing with all of the above at intrapersonal level, and bring about an interpersonal one, focusing on healthy relationships which will build/rebuild communities and connections, care, support, love as a way to cure not just the symptoms above, but especially their root cause. Community building and resilience and on the other hand re-establish a connection to the natural more-than-human world, as it has been empirically demonstrated that nature is a restorative environment which impacts the psyche rebalancing and reducing stressors, and this latter part can also be easily done when times demand social distancing, by balancing it with natural vicinity. 

Thank You! To all Environmental Engineers out there

As today is the International Day of Engineering for Sustainable Development, we at Rescogita decided to honour this day by making a big shoutout and round of applause to environmental engineers, those of today as well as those who in the past put together their knowledge of maths, chemistry, geology, hydraulics, biology and geology for the benefit of the ecological well beings of the whole biosphere, from the human to the non-human, thus improving the health of all that lives and the quality of the environment. Their work is essential into combining in one practice the protection of our health and that of the ecosystem, thus improving the quality of life by creating sustainable and ecological solutions to recycling, to waste disposal, to wastewater management, reducing and eliminating pollution, care for public health, ensuring that construction projects have low, or better, zero environmental impact and much much more. 

Starting as a branch or specialisation of civil or chemical engineering today it is receiving its due recognition and support from every sphere of society as valid standalone branch of engineering. 

From all of us here, a big thank you to all the Environmental Engineers out there, for years of study and sacrifice to gain your certification, for your motivation to develop these professional competences and the work you do everyday for us, our communities and the whole biosphere. Thank you! 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach.

19 Days to Heal The Soul

There is a period of nineteen days when members of the Baha’i Faith fast from sunset to sunrise, one of the strictest observances of faithful along with intensive prayer aimed cleansing and strengthening the soul and therefore come closer to God. 

The fasting takes places right after the Baha’i New Year and follow the Lunar calendar, therefore it is not a fixed date in the calendar, as their calendar is made of 19 months and the last is dedicated to fasting. Fasting was not only related to food but from everything which is not love, purity of self love, love for humanity and love for God and its Messengers. In some ways similar to Lent, Yom Kippur and Ramadan, times dedicated to purification. 

A time of meditation and prayer, or spiritual recovery, when the believer must strive to make the necessary readjustments in inner life, refresh and reinvigorate spiritual forces within the soul. Its purpose is spiritual, the fasting is a reminder of abstinence from selfish and carnal desires.” Carnal desires meaning food, drinks, sex and smoke from sunrise to sunset, and that starts from the age of 15, eating or drinking by accident is ok as far as unintentional. 

Fasting, said ‘Abdu’l-Bahá “is the cause of awakening man. The heart becomes tender and the spirituality of man increases. This is produced by the fact that man’s thoughts will be confined to the commemoration of God, and through this awakening and stimulation surely ideal advancements follow”. And the right spirit to face this time of sacrifice is not asceticism nor be viewed as some sort of penance to fix wrongdoings

…material fast is an outer token of the spiritual fast; it is a symbol of self-restraint, the withholding of oneself from all appetites of the self, taking on the characteristics of the spirit, being carried away by the breathings of heaven and catching fire from the love of God.

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

Discrimination – the anti-evolution behaviour

Zero Discrmination day, that is today and every single other day of the year, although until discrimination will be removed from our cultures, behaviours and practices it is important to mark this day, remember it and as UNDAIDS called in 2017 “Make some noise around zero discrimination, to speak up and prevent discrimination from standing in the way of achieving ambitions, goals and dreams.” 

Throughout our life on earth we have come to believe that creation of stigmas, social exclusion, division of The Other into categories made by culture, ethnicity, faith, orientation, ability is something normal and natural and part of our evolutionary instincts. Perhaps true in the Ice Age, and yet think of how much we manage to unlearn since the time we were cavewomen and cavemen an replaced with new knowledge, values, beliefs and how much those kept on changing and evolving throughout the centuries, our transformation from nomads to farmers, to dwellers, to kingdoms and republics all the way to today. Do you believe that today we hold dear the identify with the same values of a fellow human from, say 500 years ago?  The environment has changed since those days of the past, and the new environment influences our values and coping systems to survive, evolve and progress as a species with definite responsibilities towards our planet. 

Our world is increasingly diverse and increasingly interconnected, while divisions and differences are starting to merge more and more into a global and human culture, transcultural, intercultural, multicultural, where diversity brings value and richness compared to monocultural environment, because for individual humans, as for entire societies growth come from meeting, confrontation and dialogue, that allows opening our eyes the new, different and enriching worldviews and new learnings. 

Therefore in terms of evolution and progress, discrimination is something completely and utterly irrational, that has no place nor connection to present day human nature and the present environment in which humanity is dwelling, as it does not contribute to solve any of the challenges we are facing, does not support our existential needs, and it is just a harmful past behaviour that survived until the present day, and is in need of transformation. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach.

“Do The Little Things”

Happy Sant Dewidd’s Day

David, or Dewidd, is the patron Saint of Wales, the land of Dragons, the land of hills and deep valleys on the Western coast of the UK facing the Irish Sea, and with undying language and tradition the endured millennia of foreign domination. On this day, 1st of March, Welsh people, Cymraeg, celebrate St. Dafydd’s Day. 

Some Fun facts about St. Dewidd include him being a strict vegan and who despised alcohol and refused to exploit animals for hard labor such as ploughing, funny enough because drinking on 1st of March in Caerdydd is equivalent to drinking in Dublin on St. Patrick’s Day. Other than that we see a scholar, a hermit a humble man of the high middle ages busy praying, meditating and spreading Christianity, as well as a healer. 

Born from the line of the Princes of Powys, his mother Non gave birth to him on the cliffs of Penfro during a storm while lightning hit a rock giving life to a healing spring, back in the VIth century. Indeed he was a medieval celebrity and influencer across the whole of Chrstendom. 

Another association with Sant Dewidd’s day are daffodils, the beautiful bright yellow flowers which grow wild in South Wales, and in Welsh are known as Cenhinen Bedr – St. Peter’s Leek, and they do start blossoming around this time. 

Nonetheless the most important legacy for us at Rescogita is his most famous remar “Gwnewch y Pethau Bychain” – Do the little things, which he recommended on his last sermon to the gathered believers, advising to be joyful, keep the faith and do the little things that you have heard and seen me do. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

We are born resilient. Part 2

Ecopsychology

Is there a connection between the natural world and our sense of resilience? This was a study subject by Dr. Ingulli and Lindbloom, authors of the book Ecopsychology (2013.52-55). 

And the answer is, yes there is, and this was especially noticed among the people who live in large urban centres interestingly enough and pretty much similar. It was observed that urban dwellers when put in touch with natural and other-than-human environments managed to easily tap into their inborn and internal resilient resources and increased their ability of recognition of resilient competences by simply being in touch with nature. 

There are specific mental and psychological factors that foster resilience, everyone copes with stressful events throughout life, and many are then led into mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder just to mention a few, as the external stressful situation generates internal stressors which create and maintain those mental conditions. Those who increase their awareness about their own resilience learn to adjust and cope with the stressors, recover from the harm suffered and get on with living fairly good lives. 

Some do believe that understanding the mechanisms that bring about awareness about one’s own resilient resources may be even more important than aiming at community resilience. 

Stating that nature’s positive impact on mental health is a discovery as recent as inventing the wheel or fire, it is fairly obvious and something that most humans experience at some point in life, the real discovery is that the nature-mental health connection is something older than psychology, and a subject of study in positive/depth/eco psychologies, and it connects directly with spirituality as nature becomes a place for restoration, harmonisation and healing becoming thus what is known as a “restorative environment”, and that is the reason why spending time in nature leads to stress recovery and reduction accompanied by a sense of belonging and identity connection to the natural world. 

When talking about connection what is meant is not simply a link between two parts,, rather an “experiential sense of oneness” and of mutual belonging, a wider identity that goes beyond the individual .

We explored in the previous chapter how community engagement can be a channel to reawaken your inborn resilience, and in this one we are touching how engagement with the non-human world can be a channel that gives you the opportunity of activating the resilient resources that lay asleep within you. Data and research from the authors have uncovered that positive human-nature relations and connection enhance the coping competences in dealing with hardships. When talking about resilience what is meant is the combination of already existing traits together with the environmental influences that keep you safe from stress, trauma and their psychological aftermath, and allow living a good life regardless. 

The study concluded that there is empirical evidence to suggest that overall there is a positive relation between experiencing connection to the natural world and resilience. Those who registered high scores on Connectedness to Nature Scale also registered high scores on the Resilience Scale for Adults (RSA), giving both qualitative and quantitative solid grounds to suggest that fostering a connection to the natural world can help to keep or develop a more positive mental health, which is one of the fundamentals of ecopsychology.  

The immediate effect that was observed is stress reduction and a more positive and proactive response to stressors resulting from everyday life’s hardships. 

In conclusion we can say to all people out there, with a fair attention to practitioner of mental health and personal support professions that encouraging experiences where people connect with nature will indeed, though to different levels, promote resilience and lead to a path that untap those inborn, perhaps dormant resilient competencies and make this practice and support as widely available as possible to accompany therapy, support, coaching, counselling etc. Because, as mentioned above, this not only impacts positively the mind with immediate effect, it also allows to open a gateway of connectivity that extends the level of identity beyond the ego, to feel connected to human and non-human communities, finding in loved ones, in members of the same community, in a meadow or a mountain a part of oneself, which contrast and reduce the impact of stressors such as loneliness, isolation and feeling disconnected, increasing greatly resilience. 

In times when survival and health depend on social distancing, when socialising is limited for safety and security measures and many are to stay in their homes and wait for solutions for the responses and efforts of the scientific community, and that sense of connection and its positive impacts that existed before the pandemic, and often taken for granted, can be used as an opportunity for (re)connection with the non-human world out there, for walks in the parks or in wilder natural space and to do nothing except feeling and enjoying, what do you have to lose?

The Feast of Lots

Happy Purim to all our Jewish friends

Purim is one of the most important dates to be celebrated in the Jewish Calendar, and this day is a day of cheerful celebration that includes, exchanging of gifts and donating and caring for the poor, dressing up in costume (that make it especially powerful among children) who display colours and clee in parties and parades, while wine flows freely, and special festive meals are made, such as the Hamantaschen pastries. However, all this happens only after hearing readings from the biblical Book of Esther in the Synagogue, 

When does it originate? In the 5th Century Persian Emperor Xerxes ruled a vast empire and within his lands fell the Jewish protectorate, ran by King Mordecai, and Persian minister Haman as its overlord. Mordecai’s daughter Esther married the Persian emperor, and while in the royal palace she had overheard Minister Haman telling his imperial majesty what a rebellious and disobedient people the Jews were, requesting for the permission to exterminate them. Esther in dismay had to think fast to prevent the death of her people, and managed to convince the emperor that Minister Haman assaulted her, Xerxes, very much in love with his spouse believed her and had him hanged before he could carry out his evil plan. Upon hearing the truth the Emperor regretted his permission and nominated instead Mordecai to replace Haman as his minister 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

We are Born Resilient. Part I

In this article we are going to talk about resilience and about being resilient, rather than learning about resilience, because we believe that this is something we are all born with, and something we should be aware of, rather than treat it as a brand new competence. Resilience probably is one of the “hot” words of 2020 and looks like 2021 too, loads of people talk about it, from therapy sessions to bus stop conversations, besides a massive offer of webinars, tutorials and articles out there on the topic. Let’s go step by step. 

In psychology, resilience, is a process of adapting to adversity, tragedy, trauma and stress and their sources, such as job, relationships, health issues and a global pandemic. 

Probably the best description comes from pedagogist Dr. Ginsburg and his seven components that are at the origin of resilience known as the 7Cs (Competence, Confidence, Connection, Character, Contribution, Coping and Control).

Let’s explore them: 

Competence: how to deal with stress and stressful situations, skills, knowledge, attitudes and behaviours on ho you face challenges, deal with them and how to handle yourself when they happen. Confidence: Faith in yourself and your abilities rooted in your competences and ability to use them in real situations, knowing how and when use your strengths to face those challenges. 
Connection : community, family, friends, give connection and security, a net that can keep you safe from destructive behaviours and a place of care. Character : everybody has traits that positively influence confidence and self-worth and the roots are in our values, fostering self-care and awareness of our value-based compass through life. 
Contribution:  The feeling that we are giving something significant to others, contributing, for the benefit of a dear person, a community, the biosphere and the object of our contribution is better off because of us, together with the ability of accepting “thanks”, do help healthy decisions and choices, and enhance competences, connections and character. Coping : Includes social skills, and stress-reduction ones, essential to face life’s challenges when used with the other 7Cs. When dealing with resilience usually a strong focus is placed on coping, and just as often forgetting about the other six aspects. 
Control: you are in control of your actions and you are aware of it, you control who makes decisions about yourself, you control choices and you face life’s challenges and the results you get. 

Stop! Take some time before moving on, there is time trust me, and ask yourself some questions about what competences do you possess now that you can use to be a more resilient person? What are you confident about? And how is this rooted in your competences? What connections do you have that support your resilience? What is your community of belonging? How do you make choices? What is your compass in decision-making? Where and to whom do you give and contribute? How capable are you of accepting contribution and care from others? What are your coping mechanisms when facing hardships? What do you feel in control of?  Answer each and as spontaneously and naturally as possible. Great ! taking a few minutes to answer those questions will already start to raise your awareness about your own resilience, and what did I tell you?  it has been inside you all this time. 

The ability to deal with adversities and hardships and the impact those have on our physical and mental health, as these are known generators of stress, anxiety, neurotic behaviours and that these are an inevitable part of life, that we have to eventually face, and how we deal with these situations when they occur depends much on how we were able to learn from our present and past experiences and what they taught us on how to deal with adversity. Mostly is something we learn in childhood when facing what are known as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) which shape the blueprint of our worldview and interaction with ourselves, our communities and the biosphere. These ACEs are so impactful that they not only affect how we face adversities through life but go as far as determining the length of life, a disposition to suffer strokes, heart diseases and other serious health impediments, and the adversities we talk about can be domestic violence, substance abuse at home, parents divorcing etc. All threats that ignite in the child survival mechanisms which will be repeated and reused in other adult life stressful situations, the well known reaction of fight, flight, freeze upon which survival depends triggered by adversity. However it is not all gloom and doom, humans have a common characteristic, that of learning and evolving and what was learnt once can also be unlearnt, and most of that happens through interaction and mutual help, which translates as allowing those who care for us to close, to be given a chance for giving and receiving care as mirrors that will raise our own awareness concerning our resilience, discovering the 7Cs we already possess. 

We are social animals in constant interaction with one another, it is our nature to be mutually dependant, and as our minds constantly generate patterns that affect our behaviour and how we take decisions, every interaction we have demands rewiring of those patterns, as we adapt to circumstances which are ever dynamic, it’s our nature! The number of neural connections in our brains is higher than the number of atoms in the universe, do you realise how many patterns, choices and connections can be created? 

Our brain has also a function to store our memories , and what is a memory if not knowledge associated with an emotion? Then wait a minute! If knowledge can be gained and changed by rewiring ideas, that means the emotion can also change, and gain new insights and meanings, therefore today we can gain new learnings and awareness from past experiences, and a stressful situation that generated negative emotions can be transformed into a learning and game-changing opportunity that will support our dealing with adversity today. Take a minute. Can you remember a stressful situation in the past and how you managed it? What learnings can you gather from that? Take your time. 

Understanding resilience also means understanding Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (and let’s make a distinction between needs and wants, although they look similar does not mean they are the same). At the top of Maslow’s pyramid is Self Actualisation which may occur once the physiological, security, belonging, appreciation needs are fulfilled. There may be another way to look at it, a more resilient one, by turning the pyramid upside down starting by self-actualisation without waiting for the other ones to be fulfilled. How? By starting contributing with what we got already, and that contribution is the way to gain purpose and meaning, and having purpose and meaning will lead to self-esteem, belonging, security etc. That is resilience, face reality for what it is, and to be proactive when dealing with what life gives, simple as that. 

Piling up negativity, use of Could Have, Should Have, Would have when talking about the past is harmful for both mind and body, so what is health? Forgiveness is healthy, so is reducing resentment and reducing envy too, that’s much healthier, and is a choice, our choice. 

Another constant element of our life is change, it’s natural and constant and can’t be escaped, change happens in the biosphere, in our communities in ourselves whether we want it or not, what is optional is growth, because growth is a choice on what we can gain from facing change. Therefore we have the privilege of being able to consciously choose to awaken our resilience to grow alongside with change, as individuals and as communities. Growth from Change is a possibility and a choice, and it can be an offspring of our contribution to the growth of others.

Change is something we all experience, and we experience it that means that we have an opportunity to learn and therefore grow from it, how does that become resilience? Simple by proactively sharing it with others, contributing, giving. Why is that? Because your growth that resulted from change and the learnings you gathered gain significance, purpose and meaning once it is shared, and those are essential for self-actualisation. 

Just keep in mind that purpose requires time and patience, remember the huge number of connections and patterns the mind can do, trying out, rewiring, learn, grow take time, does not mean it has to be huge and aim for the Peace Nobel Prize, great if you do! Just needs to be something which has meaning for you, set the target right, as long as it is not only about you, it’s about you and something greater than you and beyond you. The key is to work on behaviour, as that impacts attitude and a behaviour shaped around your purpose is actually beneficial to your mental health. 

Once more now take a pause to ask yourself some questions. What I do and feel right now, does it help anyone in any way? What is the purpose of doing and feeling this way? Do others besides me have a need for what I do and feel? What shall we do with what we have to improve our lives, other people’s lives, our communities and the biosphere?  Answered every question? Great! Well done! Interesting insights right? 

You can read the best books and theories, that won’t help unless your core has not rediscovered the already existing resilience from within you, this is something we are all inborn with, because it is an essential part of our survival and adaptation instinct, that which tells us to bend during a storm and wait for it to pass unless we want to be broken and shattered, yielding, flexibility, humility are the qualities brought by resilience. Keep in mind that adversity is often an opportunity as well, has it ever happened to you to face hardship and bring out the best in you in order to face and overcome it? 

True, we are inborn, and yet if unused it is as good as not having it, fortunately there are some practices that can bring out your resilient self and optimise it, and that is by practicing being realistic, flexible and optimistic and enjoy the effect this will have on your private and professional life. Easy to say right? If you are having trouble implementing those practices, tap into a time of your past when you were able to, I am talking about your childhood, that child you used to be, carefree, without a worry, curious about everything that surrounded you, and courageous as you faced and accepted challenges and adventures, able to get to out to play, fall get hurt and bounce back to continue to play. 

Hardships and stress are part of life, and this requires acceptance,  happy life does not mean being happy all the time, it means enjoy the good times and be resilient in the bad ones, ready to bounce back to your feet. “When we can’t change a situation we are challenged to change ourselves” V. Frankl. That is our freedom, if the situation can’t be changed we can change our attitude towards it, coherent with our optimism, realism and resourcefulness. 

Oftentimes transition from childhood to adulthood means that you start to perform what others expect of you and living to those expectation starts to generate anxiety which becomes vulnerability, just recall that the lighthearted child who constantly asked questions, is brave and takes risk is also a part of you and your experience, just as your resilience is. 

The final point concerns focus, most of the time people when facing stress operate coping mechanisms aimed at stress reduction, and by doing that the focus is kept on stress and the stressful situation, rather than the enjoyment of stress-reducing activity. As if you are told not to think of a blue flower, and automatically the blue flower comes into your mind. Let’s say for example that choose to start working out in order to release some of that anxiety, pressure and stress while keeping exactly that in the centre of your mind, instead of the enjoyment of the workout, the positive mental and physical results that will come, in the first case the workout will start to become heavier, more demotivating, likely to be skipped and irregular, because anchored to the stressful situation, rather than the enjoyment of the action itself. 

Stress is part of life, welcome it, and balance with a pursuit that is meaningful for you, volunteer, do something creative, whatever has meaning for you, pursue it, you owe it to yourself, to the child within, and to your resilient talents hidden, not for long, deep inside you. 

Justice for the World, for our communities and every individual

World Social Justice Day

In your understanding are we living in a socially just world? Do you see wealth being equally distributed? Are equal opportunities in place for everyone? Are some more privileged than others? Or do you believe that struggle for social justice is not over yet, or has not even started?
This day is meant to remind us of these questions and the answers you give, if even only one of them is a No, then it means we are not there yet, and it is our responsibility and most of all, right, to make sure that more and more people are able to answer yes to all of the above.
Definitely if we look at the past we have made gigantic steps in this direction, however, the past is not the direction we are heading to and in our future outlook there is always more than can be accomplished and achieved in terms of social justice.
What needs to be done about discrepancies in the distribution of wealth? What personal liberties do we need to safeguard and promote today? How can we ensure fair privilege opportunities? What duties do we have concerning our social role, and do we receive in return for fulfilling that duty what we duly earned?
Today much effort is being put towards safeguarding social mobility ‘’s barriers removal, allowing meritocracy and reward to effort and competence regardless of backgrounds, for the benefit of the individual and the community as a whole, and protect this by ensuring economic justice and safety nets. In parallel to that, there is a lively debate regarding social rights and duties of both individuals and communities (and society’s institutions) with the purpose of equally sharing the burdens of cooperation as well as the benefits, for example taxation, public services, social insurance, equal opportunities, and fair distribution of resource and wealth.
Here at Rescogita we very much cherish the definition given by Taparelli the theologian who came up with the definition “Social Justice” – “Social Justice follows the principle of brotherly love, …reflecting the duty one has to one’s other self in the interdependent abstract unity of the human person in society…” This resonates with us at Rescogita and our belief in the principles of Community Organising as a tool to develop communities that foster individual rights and duties and care for the non-human world.

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach.

Ready for Spring?

If the answer is yes, Happy Vasant Panchami

A very special day today, as the Hindu believers celebrate Vasant Panchami, the festival celebrating the fields and ripening of the yellow flowers, the celebration of Saraswati, Goddess of knowledge, language, music and every art, and whose favourite colour is yellow, as matter of fact, a colour that dominates this day’s clothing and attire across all believers. This day is also a very auspicious and fortunate day for students, as special protegees of the Goddess, as well as a good day to start a new creative endeavour, and regardless of its dedications and protections, it is a very cheerful and happy festivity, celebrated by people dressed in yellow singing, dancing and reciting, as the first fruits and crops begin to ripen on the open fields. 

Symbolically we are looking at the preparation for the soon coming of spring which is around the corner, a little bit more patience and we are there, as, according to the Hindu calendar it is only forty days left to the first day of spring and full bloom. 

Oh, and by the way, a great way to celebrate this day is traditional kite flying, as in many parts of India, and not only, the blue sky gets covered by yellow spots which are the colorful and beautiful embroidered kites flown by children and not only, cheering and greeting Saraswati and the gift of the much awaited spring, which now is on the doorstep 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach.

You can’t get angry at pranks during Carnival

Mostly in Christian countries, especially Catholic ones, there is a time of celebration that has nothing to do with Christianity at all, and that is Carnival. A sort of mid-Winter feast, often lasting for about two weeks and it ends on the day before the start of Easter Fasting, where alcohol, glee, sex, meat, fish, fatty foods and laughter are forbidden. .It is as if saying, “Go wild now, because the coming forty days will be tough.” 

In many parts of the world the Carnival days are marked by two elements, the first being practical jokes, mockery, making fun of each other and ridicule as much as possible, a very popular practice among youth who take advantage that folk wisdom says that during carnival it is strictly forbidden to take offence and get angry because of being mocked, on the contrary as you laugh at others be sure you can laugh at yourself too, and take things with humour. The other element, is that of dressing up in beautiful and fun costumes, plenty of colours, comedy and elegance and you can feel free to pretend being someone else, make fun of authorities or simply be as vain as you want, pretty much everything is allowed as long as nobody is harmed. All is accompanied by plenty of drinks, full-blast calorie food, plenty of alcohol, and as much debauchery and flirting as possible behind does anonymous masks. 

Perhaps a clear explanation can be seen in the rituals and traditions of the famous Venitian Carnival, which, on its opening day has a ritualistic display of the Departure of the Angel, and on Mardi Gras closes with the Return of the Angel, and that means that for those two weeks, God, is closing an eye on humanity’s sinful ways and humanity has time to steam out and be rid of Moral obligations, until the Angel returns and all are asked to fall back in line for Easter Fasting. 

When, where and how Carnival has started is a mystery lost in the mist of time, of course many ancient pagan and animist traditions foresaw wearing costumes, make pranks and be somewhat morally dissolute for a specific time. Maybe it is connected with Winter coming to an end, or endurance during the cold season, or ancestral mating rituals, we do not know, what we know, since childhood is that carnival is fun, when going about pretending to be a musketeer, a knight,  pirate or batman, and come up with hilarious pranks as well as laughing at our teachers and governments until our bellies ache, from laughter and from being filled with sugary and buttery pastries and biscuits. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach.

Ecopsychology’s outlook on Spirituality

The purpose of Ecopsychology is to integrate the Ego (that is our conscious mind) with the Eco (the human and non-human environment that surrounds us) as an integral part of the Self, our complete mind both conscious and unconscious, an integration that will be reflected in positive behaviours, values and communication with others and with ourselves. For a renewed human ecology. 

Spirituality is an integral part of this approach, and let us not jump to conclusion, before exploring the connections and psychological benefits of spiritual practice and approaches to life, it is important to take a few steps back and explore how we humans have practiced and understood spirituality, from ancient times until today, in the Shortest History of Spirituality… Ever! 

At the dawn of time, early humans need to develop the concept of “spirit” its purpose of bridging human life to something greater, though mysterious and powerful, and through classical times and the sense-making efforts of its scholars and thinkers. Spirit became an essential part of who we are, one of the core elements of identity along with mind and body, home to our core identity, purpose and calling and through the spirit’s connection to the greater wholeness humans were channeled great inspiration, intuition and ideas coming from that otherworldly existence. 

In many parts of the world monotheism starts to gain popularity and the faith of many, and Spirit and Soul become merged into one, becoming a fragment of divinity, that essential part of ourselves is immortal and is what truly matters, as the divinity bestowed it onto us, and through the divinity provides us inspiration, genius, intuition as we are mere tools of the Divine Providence 

Modern age comes with the Industrial Revolution and the mindset is once again changed, there is no spirit, all the inspiration, ideas, intuitions are mechanisms of the mind, genius becomes a personality feature rather than something descending from a higher divinity and mind and body are deprived of the Spirit as it get recollocated into the brain and mind. 

Today? We are still in the modern age of rationality , and yet seems something is changing, today’s mindset appears to be moving towards a concept that the three stages above are actually not mutually excluding, and that the search for belonging to something greater is actually happening, just this time that “something” greater is adopting different forms, some call it God or Gods, but can also be a sense of belonging to humanity, or to the greater spectrum of life in the biosphere, or even the universe, as long as there is a feeling of belonging towards something greater than just our life as individual humans. 

There is actually really interesting study in the field of theology, after all for millennia they were the experts in spirituality, and this study focuses on understanding how did faith evolve in human societies and its purpose. The first humans developed faith practices and rituals in order to make sense of natural phenomena they did not have the science to understand, such as fire, thunders and droughts, and this gave way to the first spiritual practices, for example animism, shamanism, spiritism etc  As knowledge progressed, faith changed shape and its purpose became one of explaining the relations between human societies and the divinity as that divine world takes a clearer shape and form, hierarchy, social order and forms of justice and societies start to shape pantheism, paganism, spiritism etc. 

Naturally the next stage is for faith to explain the community’s identity as part of the  relation to the divinity and therefore social role, as moral and ethical norms become more strict into a reward-punishment mechanism, such as monotheistic organised religion. From this point onwards rather than progressing the evolution of faith starts to move laterally, and as alternative to the organised faith, comes individual faith as explanation of one’s purpose and identity in relation to the divinity, protestants, Alevi, gnostics etc.  Another parallel dimension which is gaining ground in our present days is faith and spirituality are sense-making practices and attitudes to understand ourselves and our relation with our psyche and through that discover the greater purpose and belonging, such as self-growth, transcendence, self care, experience the “connection” and with an integral view on all described above, as not mutually exclusive. 

Today’s mental health professionals, especially those who are working in large urban, dynamic and hectic centres agree that a common symptom found among their patients is – feeling disconnected, as if detached from something they rightfully believe is their’s and feel now is lost, and resolve to therapy to rediscover what it is. In our opinion, the answer is spirituality, that element which we willingly severed from ourselves in recent decades and centuries. 

Spirituality is a concept which has many perspectives and each includes elements of feeling connected to something which is greater than our single and individual mortal life, and key element is that of searching the meaning of life, and that is a universal experience shared by all humanity, whether aware of it or not. Spirituality demands that feeling, sense, belief that something greater than each one of us exists, something that goes beyond the sensory experience, an indescribable desire and craving to be a part of that cosmic or divine nature. 

And beware that there are many ways to experience and develop spiritual practices and attitudes, and joining  faith or religion and attending their rituals an observe their moral and ethical code is just one of the ways to cultivate your own spirituality. Alternatively you can also develop your own personal practice not necessarily associated to a divine faith and belief, or even just become a better person and improve the quality of your life by re-linking yourself to nature, or meditate, just as an example. All of these, and more, are spiritual practices that will provide that sense of recognition. 

Now something that for some can be quite shocking, the majority of humans believe that there is actually something beyond our sensorial experience of the world, known under different names and practices according to personality and cultural background, and another innate need is for every individual to grow as a person and be the happiest possible in all aspects of life, and these two elements are very connected. 

Psychologically speaking, people who have higher level of spirituality have a stronger understanding of the meaning of life and experience stronger mental and emotional stability and wellbeing. As if the belief in something “greater” such as us God, Gods, Spirits, Collective Consciousness, the Universe, actually delivers a sense of wholeness to the psyche and actually makes these people seem happier and healthier. People are motivated to find meaning to their lives and therefore to find value and transform themselves into the person they wish to become and achieve their true potential. 

To this end, an empirical and rather rational area of scientific research, psychology started to investigate into spirituality and spiritual practices, until a whole branch was developed, and the psychology of spirituality came to be known as Transpersonal Psychology, which tackles three areas: 

  1. Beyond Ego Psychology – which implies the expansion of the sense of self and completeness beyond the personal concept of Self, by developing compassion and altruism as tools to accomplish our full human and personal potential . 
  2. Wholistic and Integrative Psychology – Where wellbeing and health are balance and self-care implies taking care of body, mind, heart and…spirit. 
  3. Psychology of Transformation – Spiritual and personal growth require a transformation of the self, aiming towards higher ways of perceiving, experiencing and living in the world. 

Transpersonal psychology is a practice and field that supports us to cultivate our values and leads us to deep psychological transformations, expansion of consciousness of the self beyond our individual psyche and find a connection with all that lives, and practitioners also research spiritual and psychological transformation and awareness concerning expanded states of awareness of the self. 

What are the benefits of introducing a spiritual practice in your life?

Less concerns for material possessions, fame or wealth 
Less sense of unhealthy ethnic, national or group identity 
Less dualism (separation from all people, life and matter 
Less fear of death
Less psychological emotional turbulence
More concern for global and universal values 
More sense of union with all people, life and matter
More compassion and altruism towards others 
More calm and well-being 
More appreciation, gratitude, for all life.

Spiritual development is an important, if not essential element of ecopsychology’s approach to healing at the same time ourselves, our communities and our planet, because a core ingredient ecopsychology is the awareness of mutual benefit and interconnectedness 

Just keep in mind that spirituality is not a practice that necessarily has to involve a deep belief in the divine, rather spirituality is a state of mind and lifestyle grounded on purpose-finding, feeling belonging to beyond our immediate sensory experience, and aims at personal growth and ecological actions (meaning those actions the are good for you, your community and the biosphere). Regardless of one’s beliefs, whether religious, spiritual, atheist of gnostic everyone has right to be fully themselves. 

“In a world full of temporary things you are a perpetual feeling.”

Happy Saint Valentine’s Day

Indeed, as all well know, it is a day to celebrate love, perhaps the religious significance of the day has been somewhere lost in time, of that martyr Valentine that secretly celebrated weddings at a time when the Roman pagans persecuted the Christians, eventually captured and martyred and then celebrated as a Saint. What remains today is mostly a youthful recurrence marked by flowers and chocolates exchanged between couple in love, and expectations of something special from our loved ones. 

If love is one of the core purposes of life, as described by many, what is the end to have a day to remind us that we love and that we are loved? Many voices criticise and attack this day as hypocritical, commercial, and unfairly depressing for single people. Could be they are right, and yet this does not diminish the importance of celebration. Every accomplishment, achievement and victory is something that needs to be celebrated, as celebration is an acknowledgement of how important that is to us, gives it value, makes it special and is a sign of having reached something as a result for your efforts. What achievement is greater than falling in love with someone, and then being in love together? To overcome the obstacles and difficulties being in a relationship means, and cherish the joys, passion and happiness it gives? That deserves a celebration indeed just as do birthdays, obtaining a degree, new year’s day and many more. Finding love (and being found by love) is indeed one of the greatest accomplishments in human life, and if there is a specific day to celebrate we are alive and present, birthdays, why not dedicate a day to remind ourselves of the fortune of being in someone’s heart while this person is in ours? Love truly does deserve to be celebrated, and does not mean financial investment in a massive bouquet or those specially crafted chocolates, find your own unique way of celebration and how to make it truly meaningful, as this day is here a reminder of what sometimes we can take for granted and forget to be grateful for. 

On another note, love is a feeling that goes beyond the one between human beings, that same passion, faster heartbeat, head in the clouds feeling, uncontrollable euphoria and sensing mutual desire is something that also occurs between you and the community you belong too, expressing mutual gratitude and love for all you have done, are doing and will do for one another and being reminded of the passion that drives you. Just well can be applied to the natural non-human world, you don’t believe me? Regardless of your relationship status, take a walk outside, even better run, roll, go crazy and feel the connection to everything into the rhythm of your heartbeat, and then compare it to how it felt the last time you said, or heard “I love you”. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

Happy Year of the Ox

Chinese New Year

A new year begins, happy new year! According to the traditional Chinese calendar, used and celebrated alo beyond China, and this festivity is also referred to the first day of Spring, winter has officially ended and bid farewell by the Lantern Festival (which took place last night) and it is not a fixed date like the traditional Western New Year, rather follows the lunar calendar, that is the new moon appearing between 21st January and 21st of February,and therefore we happily welcome everybody in the Year of the Ox. 

This celebration is the most important holiday in China (and in neighbouring countries) from Korea to Myanmar, and now celebrated also across the Western World, exported by a more and more globalised and interconnected world. 

Today is important to honour the ancestral deities and the ancestors, and this is something that lives on since very remote times. 

So how to celebrate?  On New Year’ Eve make sure the whole house is clean. Thus making sure it is inhospitable for evil spirits and send bad fortune away, and if quarantine situation allows, many relatives will come over for a lavish dinner. The windows are doors are decorated with red paper, as red is the colour of fortune and health, and then, of course, some good old fireworks 

And what to expect in the year of the Ox? Nourishment, stability, diligence, honesty and hard work is something astrologers agree upon. And what does that mean to you personally, us as a species and our planet, is, of course, up to us. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach.

International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Wife of a prominent scientist of her time, world famous scientist Marie Curie was asked by a journalist how it felt to be married to a genius, she said “I don’t know, you can ask my husband.”

The names and endeavours of women in science is huge, and one would think that an empirical and rational field as that of science would be already beyond the binary male-female differences, attributing merit to results and achievements rather than gender. Apparently not so much has changed since Epathia’s times, when the Egyptian scientist and philosopher in the time of the late Roman Empire was executed by Christian zealots for her belief in science and research. In some parts of the world it is still viewed as sinful for a woman to study, nevermind becoming a scientist or researcher. Although fortunately most women can pursue academia today in the majority of countries around the world, some statistics are to the least unsettling. 

Only 30% of scientific researches globally are women, and even those publish less, have lower salaries for their research and have a much slower career compared to their male counterparts. There are general and rooted false stereotypes that attribute scientific research as something more befitting males than a woman’s mind, as the former is better wired for rationality and logical thinking, necessary for science than that of a man. 

Nonetheless, women lead innovation in the scientific field, just look at the COVID19 vaccination development, a field that was led by female doctors and researchers, from the first DNA mapping of the virus, up to the development of the vaccine that has given the world a new hope.

True, we need more research and outcomes for the betterment of human and non-human life and to progress in healthy and sustainable ways, and that is no excuse for the process to be only goal oriented and not allow an inclusive, equal-opportunity and respectful process to all who are capable of contributing?  How many Epathia’s are still out there? How many great scientists are actually being interviewed because of their husbands’ endeavours? 

Whatever you plan to post today on your social media, we ask you to include the hashtag #WomenInScience to raise awareness on this important day, until full equality and equal rights are implemented. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach.

Parinirvana

The endless Nirvana

Today Buddhists across the world celebrate the “death” of Buddha, or rather the end of cycle of life and death and ascent to the Nirvana, and being free from physical existence and its pains. In fact the Buddha ascended upon understanding the Four Noble Truths, which are: 1) Life involves suffering. 2) Suffering comes from having desires. 3) The Eightfold Path. 4) Suffering ends when the Eightfold Path is followed. (and the EIghtfold path is often represented and the Wheel of Dharma – Buddha’s teachings). 

Needless to say how important this day is in the Buddhist calendar, and the faithful greet Parinirvana by meditating and going to the monasteries, it is very social occasion as communities meet, prepare food and carry presents like goods, clothes or money as an offering. 

This day offers an opportunity to evaluate life and manifest gratitude, in order to facilitate the path to Nirvana, as well as an occasion for remembrance of the close ones who passed away , with a purpose to maintain the awareness the death is an essential part of life and nothing is permanent nor lasts forever and therefore loss and change require acceptance rather than grief and sadness

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

World Cancer Day

Does anyone among you know someone who suffers or has suffered from cancer? What about someone who died from this terrible ailment? Most of us do, it is one of the top 10 “killers” in the world today, 2nd one in the so-called developed countries. 

This day has a purpose to encourage research, investment as well as awareness regarding this “modern plague”and to support the scientific community’s efforts into identifying treatment, cure and prevention through their commendable work.  Today we are treating two topics, from a non-medical and psycho-social perspective: Palliative Care and the Environment.  The definition the World Health Organisation gives us is “an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problems associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial, and spiritual.” Death is indeed a natural, if not the most natural part of life, and the still high death rates, though improving, call for stronger attention, besides that of a healthy lifestyle (physical and mental) to focus also on the quality of death, this final rite of passage and preparation for the final stage of mortal life, and preparedness by finding in approaches and techniques coming from therapy, psychology, coaching…and ecopsychology, to assist the patient with a quality passing, acknowledging and accepting the fears and distress, to understand legacy and meaning-making, fostering courage and peace, Therefore we would like to stress, that while cherishing scientific research towards cures and treatment let us not forget or underestimate the power and impact of palliative care, as a basic right for cancer patients.  Our second topic concerns the environment, as that is universally accepted as one of the top causes for cancer, just think about the incidence of cancer cases in largely polluted areas. Here at Rescogita our outview and principle are those of interconnectedness, an unhealthy person living in unhealthy community, living in an unhealthy environment and believing that healing is something that is not limited to treating the single human for sickness, rather something that needs to happen in parallel on 3 levels, individual, human community and biosphere in order to win this and the many other heath battles we are facing, and will face, and all three are of equal importance. In the paleolithic the environment was very healthy and still human lifespan was on average 30 years old. Today our lifespan is around 70-80 and yet our natural environment’s flora and fauna are dying. Therefore in our view, healing the individual through the ever-progressing medical sciences, needs to be accompanied by healing the human community ever more dictated by disconnectedness, isolation and fostering addiction and unhealthy lifestyle through psychology and learning, and all that goes hand in hand with healing the natural environment through the environmental, ecological and economical sciences, as all plays a vital role to defeating cancer, and not only. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

Farewell to bad luck and misfortunes of the last year

Setsubun festivities start today

In Japan today, Shinto followers, celebrate the 1st day of Spring according to he Old Calendar, Actually Setsubun literally means seasonal division, and the cultural associations and rituals closely resemble that of New Year, as it is associated to Lunar New Year, with a goal to cleanse the previous year as the start of a new season of spring, and its rituals have the purpose of casting away the bad fortune and evil spirits of the previous year. 

Today’s main ritual ill be the Mamemaki, where soybeans are roasted and thrown out of the door, to cast away the evil spirits. Although there is an alternative, more liked by children, where a family member wears a mask of a demon while the rest throw the soy beans at the mask reciting rhymes to send the bad demons out to allow good fortune to enter. The soybean ritual can also be performed at the local shrines and temples adorned for the Spring festival. Interestingly enough, in Kyoto this day is also seen as a prosperous one for the debut of apprentice geishas to the public. The adorned temples set up displays and shows that attract people to the thousands and is a very happy day for the whole Shinto community. 

In rural areas the celebrations can be more personal, such as eating ritual food while silently standing in the cardinal direction of the zodiac symbol of the year (as each sign is associated with one of the four cardinal points.

Another interesting ritual concerns creating small decorations resembling sardine heads and holly leaves at the household’s entrance that will stop any evil spirit from entering, and to then conclude the day by drinking ginger sake, especially brewed for this day. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach. 

Spring We are Halfway There

The Imbolc Celebrations

Today is a very important day for our Wiccan friends, as Winter is soon over and Spring Equinox is on the horizon, this date also marks the time of the year where sheep, vital cattle to human sustainment since the dawn of times begin breeding and lactation. Therefore celebrating nature’s cycle and order. The day is one of the most important ones in Celtic, and today’s Wiccan calendar, where this day and night are dedicated to welcome into the worshippers home the presence of Brigid, the ancestral goddess of fertility This days sees fires, puppet weaving representing the goddess, and a central role to the poets, sacred to Brigid, who recite devout prose and composition in her honour. 

With the advent of Christianity Imbolc was transformed into Saint Brigid’s day a healer nun who shared with the Goddess the symbolism of fire and milk. 

Modern day Wiccan spirituality sees in this day a strong opportunity to reconnect with nature, as if opening the windows, after they were kept shut during winter to keep out the winter cold, and individual practices are carried out, such as taking a cleansing bath, visiting rivers or streams, composing and reading poetry, begin planting some crops and flowers for the coming Spring, thorough cleaning of one’s home, and of course, light a candle. All rituals that include re welcoming nature into our homes and its natural and perennial cycles. 

An interesting element is that Imbolc’s celebrations are not only, in parallel, celebrated as Saint Brigid’s Day, the same day was in the Greek Christian celebration of Candlemas as feat of purification, and finds a parallel with the Roman festivity of Februalia, where Februs God of purification and the underworld was worshipped. Nature’s cycles affect human rituals since the dawn of time. 

Rescogita is a startup that focuses on education through training, coaching, capacity building and consulting, grounded on the principles of ecopsychology, meaning in identifying practical solutions to affect the wellbeing of the individual, the community and the biosphere in a single approach.