Let’s aim at a world that is wise, well and awake! Sylvie Shiwei Barbier co-founded Life Itself to build a wiser future through culture, space and community. Life Itself already has its first hubs in Bergerac (France), London and Berlin. Its aim: embodying a new way of living, based on the precepts of Zen wisdom secularised. Setting up co-living spaces to gather the community, launching initiatives of contemplative activism, developing its own businesses to be self sustainable. Life Itself is actively promoting a new narrative for the world!
What could be reimagined now and how did you imagine it could look like in ten years’ time?
We should focus on culture – the “way of being” of a group or society. We should inquire what are wise cultures and societies. We should seek to learn from others who have good practices, implement them, experiment with them. We would value questions rather than answers, value inquiry and beginner’s mind. Individuals would also have a much Deeper understanding of human nature and being.
For that to happen there would be funding for research ontology, psychology, mental health and education. There would be a new spirit in politics, talking about politics and religion would no longer be a taboo in bars and family conversations, citizens and young people would be a lot more involved in politics and public service would be sexy. There would be a new narrative around human flourishing and people would take the time to come together and discuss important issues both personally and collectively (what do I value, what do we value, what am I / we committed to, how do we work together to bring that Forth,…).
In education: other countries would learn from leaders such as Finland. In ontology we would learn from the convergence of ancient wisdom traditions (such as Zen) and modern Cognitive science. Mental health and well-being would be taken as seriously as physical health and well-being.
How could we experiment with what you just imagined?
We should start experimenting with our sense of time and grow our Imagination to operate on a greater time scale, for example the next 7 generations.
My dream project would be to invite Masters of Being to explore and create a hybrid of practices whose goal would be to nurture our sense of belonging, compassion, qualitative observation, deep listening, Integrity, possibility, creativity and Courage. These would then be practiced on a long term basis by a trial group of activists, intellectuals, Scientists, educators, artists, public servants. Simultaneously there would be matched control groups who do not do the practices. We could then compare things between groups, for example the quality of their life, the capacity to be creative, resourceful, compassionate, take action, Collaborate with others, the quality of the social fabric they are part of, their sense of community etc.
Such experiments must be set up in the long term to have an impact, and not be a one off. We should see it as an opportunity to create a ‘safe provocation’.
Who needs to join the Alliance to make what you envisioned true?
We need to invite the Masters of Being such as Aboriginal Tribes, Tibetan monks and the Dalaï Lama, Marina Abramovic Institute ( MAI ), Plum village (Buddhist mindfulness practice centers founded by Thich Nhat Hanh), Integral Zen and its founder Doshin Roshi, Harvard Professor Roberto Unger , Landmark and Werner Erhard (‘father of Self Help’ according to the NYT), South African Peace Nobel Prize Desmond Tutu, American philosopher Ken Wilber (father of the integral Psychology approach) …
What are the major questions that you are asking yourself about your field? What has not yet been answered or even asked?
- What are our blind spots to imagining a new, big, wise future? What are the collective traumas in our way to live present to our interbeing and to take wise collective action?
- Who are the Masters of Being (being a human being)? Eg monk, marina Abramovic, aboriginal, soufi masters, shamans?
- Can we imagine a future from a place bigger than our Survival or fear?
- What is wisdom?
- What does collective wisdom look like?
- How do we nourish the seeds of wisdom?
- What experiences can we create to nourish our Imagination so we don’t imagine from what we already know and create trivial extrapolation?
- What is a future worth living for? Worth being disappointed for? Worth risking yourself for? Have your ass on the line while you imagine that future!
- Who are we here to serve?
Sylvie Shiwei Barbier’s interview on youtube can be found HERE.
Photo: Sylvia Shiwei Barbier (c)