Creating the Bestiary for the Gaian Gathering

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by Hector Aristizabel with Uri Noy Meir & Ilaria Olimpico

Recording by Gabo Aristizabal

Shayontoni Gosh and Hector Aristizabal were invited to join in the week-long celebration of the Work That Reconnects (WTR) network, particularly on the day dedicated to honoring our collective pain for the world. Our intention was to involve other WTR practitioners in the process, both in shaping our activities and imagining how others could participate. The inspiration for this endeavor came from Joanna Macy’s 1981 poem “Bestiary,” which emerged from a shared exercise of grief for the numerous species that had vanished by that time.

Recognizing the enormity of the task, we pondered how to navigate the ongoing environmental crisis, the 17 active wars, the breakdown of social institutions, the global issue of male violence against women, and the pervasive sense of meaninglessness in today’s world.

How could we collectively mourn the beauty and life lost in our world?

How could we collectively mourn the beauty and life lost in our world? How could we grieve the futures we had envisioned for ourselves and our children, futures that might no longer be attainable?

Acknowledging the profound impact of Joanna Macy’s life’s work and the wisdom of the Work That Reconnects, we knew this process had to be collective. Leveraging technology, we crafted a simple invitation to gather diverse voices from our networks. Participants were asked to respond with a short video, performing a condensed version of Joanna’s original poem “Bestiary,” skillfully adapted by Reconectando’s Liliana Acevedo. Within days, we received video contributions from various countries in different languages.

ImaginAction’s Uri Noy Meir edited these clips into a short video, complemented by music from Clare Hedin. This compilation was then shared at the online gathering. 

The video builds on ImaginAction’s efforts to give voice to the more than human world through embodied artistic expression. It was beautiful to see more than 50 faces and voices worldwide, each in their native language.

Post-viewing, Ilaria Olimpico guided us in an emotional and poetic response to the video’s imagery, weaving together a collective mandala of grief for the current state of our world. The experience showcased the beauty that emerges when we collectively mourn and derive meaning from a collapsing world.

Staying-with is an ability more than ever needed in this current time.

In the Spiral of the Work That Reconnects, before going forth, we need to listen to “ the vast sadness of our hearts” and “ the wild anger in our throats.” Only then can the pain lead us towards a transformation, towards a new birth and rebirth.  Staying-with is an ability more than ever needed in this current time. Often we numb ourselves to protect ourselves, and our hearts may remain unbroken and frozen. We prefer
Joanna’s invitation to “Walk through life with an open, broken heart.”

Courage, on the contrary of what commonly is perceived, is the twin of vulnerability.

After the viewing, We took moments of silence. This pregnant emptiness was necessary for possibilities to arise. We found ourselves in a dance between tears and smiles, sadness and hope.  Hope is not just wishful thinking. As Joanna says, active hope is “a readiness to discover the strength of our hearts, our love for life, the unsuspected depth of patience and diligence, our innate authority, and our capacity to lead. None of these can be discovered from a sofa or without risk”. Yes, it takes courage. And courage, contrary to what is commonly perceived, is the twin of vulnerability. 

Having Joanna’s blessed presence during our virtual ritual was a source of great joy. Our souls expressed the power of shared mourning and together, we sought an antidote to the collective trauma stemming from the separation and destruction we face. Collectively transforming our pain and freeing our energy so we can fight for a new world to emerge.

Links to previous video works that led to this offering:

2022 – Back to Earth and Conference of Beings I

2023 – Bestiary

This article is an edited transcription of a talk given at the Gaian Gathering of the Work That Reconnects Network in November 2023.  A video of the full talk is available on the WTR Network website here.

Hector Aristizabal
is a eco-psychologist and the current director of
Fundacion Reconectando dedicated to reconciliation in Colombia among humans and nature as well as perpetrators of violence and their victims. He combines healing rituals with the Work That Reconnects and social theater to create spaces for healing.

Uri Noy Meir
 is a father, an artist and creative being. He seeks to
collaborate with life to heal himself with other through greater connection to nature, self and others.

Ilaria Olimpico
is mother of two daughters, social arts facilitator,
Focusing trainer. She combines participative storytelling, listening practices and theater to accompany people and communities in the paths of awareness and reconnection.

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