I’ve been inspired or nudged (take your pick!) to share this story by blogger Jane Fritz, who I recently nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award. If you read to the end of the post, you’ll see where and how Jane fits in.
Back in 2009, and thanks to a touch of skulduggery on the part of my daughter, I was entered into the draw to spend an hour on the empty Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, London, as part of the living art project by artist Antony Gormley. To my initial horror, I was awarded a place.
From 6th July to 14th October 2009, 2,400 randomly selected “Plinthers” from across Britain had the opportunity to contribute to this living portrait of the people of the UK. In Gormley’s words “The 6.3 metres on top of the Plinth will be a testing ground for our freedoms and our identities, singular and collective. . . we might learn something about who we are and how we are through the 2,400 person-hours making up this monument in time”.
What on earth was I going to do while I was up there? And did I really want to do this at all? I certainly didn’t want to do it on my own; I was very nervous.
I intuitively felt it important that I should “virtually” take as many other people up on the Plinth with me as I could. I contacted as many of my family and friends as I could and asked them all a simple question:
Please send me one word which expresses the quality you would like to see more of in the world.
I said I would read out each word, together with the name of the person who sent it, and where they came from. But I also said that I would spend the first few minutes of my hour on the Plinth in silent reflection of all the words that people had sent me to read out. I invited everyone who sent me a word to link with me for this period of inner reflection at 3 p.m. on Monday 3rd August and think of their own word. Thanks to all who sent a word I didn’t feel alone, or even nervous, once I’d got up there as I knew many people were up there with me on the Plinth in thought and spirit.
The words people chose – there were 94 of them in total – were selfless and an expression of transpersonal – i.e. beyond the “me”/personal – qualities such as love, peace, harmony, compassion, acceptance, empathy, gratitude and understanding.
There were a few amusing exceptions though – a local shopkeeper initially wanted more money in the world to pay his bills, but quickly changed his word to “respect” when he saw the disapproving looks on the faces of his staff! And one lady I asked for a word after the event said she wanted more wine in the world. By that time I could kind of go along with her in that in my post-Plinth more relaxed state of mind! Of the 94 words, I read out all but the last 8, simply because the hour flew by and I ran out of time.
Nothing went wrong. The support I received from the family and friends who came along, from many people in the crowd and from those on the open-top tourist buses passing by was fantastic. I loved it up there and in spite of all my fears and nerves in advance of the event, I enjoyed every minute.
I was already on a high about being up on the Plinth on a sunny afternoon, but when I heard the news via my family on the ground that my first grandchild had just been born – a whole month early – while I was up there, I was completely over the Moon. I jumped for joy and was able to announce her unexpected arrival to the world in a unique way, making 3rd August 2009 a very special day for me indeed.
Back to the Sunshine Blogger Award. One of the questions I asked Jane and the other bloggers I nominated was the title of this post:
What one thing would you like to see more of in the world?
Jane’s reply? Compassion, compassion, compassion. Where has it gone??? The world needs you back. Yes, individuals and communities show compassion, and leaders in some countries, but other world leaders are bringing the world down with their vitriol and lack of compassion. It’s 75 years since VE Day and it seems all the lessons the world learned have been forgotten.
Compassion, along with Love, Peace, Truth, Inclusiveness plus many other transpersonal qualities, was what a lot of people responded with. We need all of these qualities right here and now. What would you have asked me read out for you on the Plinth, I wonder, and what quality would you like to see more of in the world?