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And today, how do we inhabit this world?


Poem-installation by Moirika Reker and Gilberto Reis, featured at S. Sebastião Aqueduct - Bienal ANOZERO Coimbra, unveiled in 2015. Fotografia de Jorge Neves


"Listen! A wind has died. Can’t you tell?

We’re gardeners and not flowers." (free translation)


This installation, present in the Arcos do Jardim area in Coimbra since 2015, has always amazed me. Coming from the emerging event Coimbra Biennial of Contemporary Art - ANOZERO, this public art piece reflects the place of human existence in a spatio-temporal existence of intention, purpose and impact. When we notice this installation, we look at its integration in the S. Sebastião Aqueduct and the continuity with the Botanical Garden of the University of Coimbra, where the magnificence of nature in its splendor, and the value of life extracted from it, dictated its importance and its conservation. And today, how do we inhabit this world?

In conscience, do we live as if at birth we had earned the right to exist, or do we assume with our birth, the duty and responsibility to care for, our physical, emotional, and interrelational place in this world? The preservation of life is based on a symbiotic relationship of human-being and nature transformation, where our actions presuppose a double transformation relationship. We transform nature with our presence, and nature transforms us as we are part of it. We talk about meaning, we talk about time and the purpose of the effort we invest, which I call work in a broader sense. We speak of consciousness.

The discussion about the meaning of work and time is a very lively one at the present time. If, on one hand, work allows the construction of a personal and social identity, based on an identification with what is created, on the generation of value capable of transforming and providing other resources, and by the insertion in a group; when it is scaled and based on the division of tasks, we seem to tend toward fragmentation and depersonalization. When we witness the division and segmentation of work, we start to ignore the meaning of work, the lack of meaning in the individual task and the ignorance of the meaning in the collective task. A form of division and separation of people, segregation and competition is created, with all the associated psychological suffering, and the work ceases to dignify. To make progress we find ways to mitigate this suffering, to accept the non-sense of invisible, goal-based tasks, removed from the process of transforming things, from which we take away only the reward of having completed them, and of which we have little understanding of the purpose.

We accept this way of transforming nature, we assume the narcissistic character of this act, and we manage the pain of consciously infertilizing personal relationships, society - modernity. In this acceleration of times and in the need to progress, give statute and provide, we mechanized, digitalize, divide, specialize, and with this we progress in an idea of modernity that few people can justify. We discover needs, we produce items, and today we suffer because we cannot eliminate the waste of our selfishness, without producing more waste.

In this rising modernity we experience a crisis of meaning, regarding the use of time, the notion of productivity - who does it serve, to bullshit jobs, the meaning of work in its purpose, the object of work, the value of money, and the questioning of our relationship with life, with the cycles of nature and the cycles of things. And the manuality rises up, unpretentious satisfaction, sanation and completeness in the return to manual competence, work on a human scale, dignity without the need to justify its value. Eternal return, nature. Moving away from the intangible associated with the technological, management, uncertainty and efficiency world, and then reconnect with the search for commitment to life, to common preservation values, healing in the exploration of creativity and human potential in communion with nature - the astonishingly concrete, discovering belonging. We re-signify the meaning of our efforts in a new historical, economic, ecological and social context and question how to produce this balanced symbiotic relationship that sustains human existence, the fundamental relationship human-being, nature and the place of our work as guardian of life, in its wholeness.


And what is our stance, our commitment?

I am a flower when I survive ephemerally, gathering the fruits of circumstances in a superficial existence, confused by meaning, alienated from meaning. I am a flower when I am absent, uncommitted, of thoughtless living, when I accept the status quo, in monotony and melancholy. I am a gardener, guardian of life, when I am conscious, working on myself, and putting myself at the service of what I know to be the greater meaning. When I get involved in cultivating relationships, skills, knowledge, when I direct my effort and dedication in order to act in the present, in mentalities, in the discovery of human creativity, dignity, and happiness. I am a gardener when I work actively in the construction and development of the world I want to live in, with work that is the meaning of intentional, thoughtful, conscious, committed, and responsible action to promote the human dimension, the community, and the ecological aspect of preservation of life and communion with nature.

To be a gardener today is to literally return to nature, to reclaim the human scale in things, and yet to be positively surprised by the greatness of nature's impact on our physical and mental health. To be conscious in this eternal return.


That mental health can be about looking at ourselves in the world, not as isolated and self-centred beings, but being able to extend beyond ourselves, discovering and embracing our personal history, in a sense of belonging, intertwined, connected and fulfilling the intention to be and act in the world.


10th of October is World Mental Health Day - may we repair (double meaning: observe and fix) the world in order to heal it.


---

Dejours, C. (1980) A loucura do trabalho. Estudo da psicopatologia do trabalho. 5ª ed. São Paulo, Oboré.


Graeber, D. (2019) Bullshit Jobs: a theory. New York, Simon & Schuster Paperbacks


Crawford, M. (2010) Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work. New York, Penguin Group.


https://geral.anozero-bienaldecoimbra.pt/


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