Novichok’s Salisbury legacy is peace

 

“In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity, consider.”

King Solomon c. 990–931 BCE

 

Resilience is not just an attribute of the individual: communities have collective resilience.

Christopher Cocking[1] demonstrates that co-operative behaviour is the normal collective response to adversity. Novichok’s legacy to Salisbury is further proof of this.

The novichok incident is sorely testing the city of Salisbury: the absence of tourists and a thinning city evidence reports that businesses are 20-40 per cent down. Yet, in being laid bare, the city shows its true colours. There is an openness of hearts in the shops, on the streets and in the market square. Salisbury is demonstrating it is a city of friendship and pulling together to conquer adversity. Visions of hope are everywhere, for Salisbury is full of doves following Michael Pendry’s installation of ’Les Colombes’ – 2,500 folded white paper doves suspended high above the Nave in the Cathedral. This installation catalyzed Salisbury’s overt and collective embrace of peace in the novichok wake. Doves flocked to the windows of shops as Salisbury joined hands providing doves not just for the cathedral but also to its own community; hope spilled onto the pavements as windows filled with this ubiquitous symbol.

When Picasso introduced his dove as the international symbol of peace in 1950 he said, “I stand for life against death; I stand for peace against war.” King Solomon, the original “man of peace” advocated a considered response to adversity. Rather than baying for retaliation, the doves flying through Salisbury show the city has issued a considered response to the novichok incident – a legacy for peace.

Above, doves in a Salisbury shop window.

Above and below, doves in a basket in Fisherton Mill Gallery and Cafe, ready for customers to take home and share with loved ones.

 

Visit Salisbury’s City of Doves in the Cathedral until 22 July 2018. More information here.

Read about artist Michael Pendry here.

Watch a video of Michael talking about his installation here.

Follow Salisbury Cathedral’s instructions to make your own dove.

Dr. Chris Cocking of the University of Brighton here and his paper is here.

[1]A Social Identity Model of Collective Resilience (SIMCR) is suggested, where co-operative behaviour is the normative response. Cocking, Christopher (2016) Collective resilience and social support in the face of adversity: evidence From Social Psychology In: Kumar, U., ed. The Routledge international handbook of psychosocial resilience. Routledge, London, UK, pp. 111-123.  https://eprints.brighton.ac.uk/16232/

This article includes extractions from an article written by Estelle for the Salisbury Journal and you can read that in full here.

#SalisburyCityofDoves #LesColombes

“It’s what you do next that matters” said slave turned philosopher, Epictetus on resilience

Epictetus (AD 55 – 135) was born a slave but became a leading philosopher whose work continues to influence today. His life is a story of resilience.

Epictetus loved philosophy and his owner allowed him to study the subject. When Epictetus was thirteen, emperor Nero died (68 AD) and Epictetus was freed. He continued with philosophy, and this learning elevated his social status. Time passed and Epictetus started teaching philosophy in Rome, but when he was thirty-eight, philosophers were banished from Rome so Epictetus went to Greece. There, he set up a philosophical school. Epictetus’s stature and reputation grew; he was charismatic and sought after as a conversationalist, including by Emperor Hadrian. Epictetus’ teachings survived because his pupil Arrian wrote them down and published them in “Discourses” and “Enchiridion”. This is how we know that Epictetus’ literal words on bouncing back were “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

Many modern thinkers follow Epictetus’ views. Some identify “bounce ability” as the prime indicator of success: US psychologist Angela Duckworth studies what makes people successful. She claims that the prime indicator of achievement is the possession of “grit”, the ability to dig in and keep going*. This view is widely endorsed, including by Dr. Siegel who lists resilience as one of the six essential psychological characteristics of successful people. The other five characteristics are optimism, creativity, self-control, emotional awareness and sociability.*

Interestingly, the U.S military uses the term “intestinal fortitude” for resilience and identify it as the ability to overcome adversity, learn from it, and push through to new heights*. Epictetus lived this fortitude – despite being born enslaved, he became a respected thinker whose work survives today.

Epictetus’ story evidences Dr. Siegel’s characteristics of success. It is interesting that Epictetus used philosophy to improve his life; this was his constant skill. Epictetus’ success informs for modern times: a central discipline can evolve you. This concept is attractive, with it suggestions of self-care and self-development – both of which combat mental distress while helping develop resilience.

Read about the boy with the bread sandwich here and book Estelle’s talk on resilience here.

 

*References

“Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” – Angela Duckworth

“Suite Success: The Psychologist from “The Apprentice Reveals” What It really Takes to Excel—in the Boardroom and in Life” – Dr. Siegel

“The One Quality All Successful People Have in Common” – Jeffry Harrison

The story of the boy with the bread sandwich

 

“Out of massive suffering emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”

Khalil Gibran

 

In “How People Learn to Become Resilient” Maria Konnikova writes about Norman Garmezy, a developmental psychologist researching resilience, who “met thousands of children in his four decades of research. But one boy in particular stuck with him. He was nine years old, with an alcoholic mother and an absent father. Each day, he would arrive at school with the exact same sandwich: two slices of bread with nothing in between. At home, there was no other food available, and no one to make any. Even so, Garmezy would later recall, the boy wanted to make sure that “no one would feel pity for him and no one would know the ineptitude of his mother.” Each day, without fail, he would walk in with a smile on his face and a “bread sandwich” tucked into his bag.

The boy with the bread sandwich was part of a special group of children. He belonged to a cohort of kids – the first of many – whom Garmezy would go on to identify as succeeding, even excelling, despite incredibly difficult circumstances.”

Since Norman Garmezy’s work, Harvard Graduate School of Education has found that “Resilience can be built; it’s not an innate trait or a resource that can be used up” (The Science of Resilience) and the importance of building resilience is recognised. Resilience is part of the YoungMinds programme, funded by the Department for Education in 2011 to improve outcomes in schools.

Resilience needs to be developed in the UK’s workforce – government statistics show that in 2016/17, 12.5 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety, while 526,000 workers suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety (new or long-standing). This trend is worsening and professionals are by far the worst affected – 2% of the workforce:

Diagram from hse.gov.uk

 

Presenteeism is also increasing, with employees at work being too stressed to be productive.

The cost to employers is significant and the personal cost to employees is even greater. Building resilience can improve lives, reduce business costs and increase profits.

I’d like to see people coming to work with a smile on their face – and a filling in their sandwich.

Book Estelle’s interactive talk on resilience.