A Beautiful World: Resilience comes in the most mundane of places
Community builds resilience, and resilience builds community.
And it often comes in the strangest, or perhaps the most mundane of places, according to Mark Nepo.
Nepo, 67, is a poet, philosopher, teacher and cancer survivor. He said his very first experience with discovering an authentic community happened 30 years ago when he almost died from a rare form of lymphoma.
He was thrust in treatment and waiting rooms in doctor’s offices sitting next to strangers, he said. But before he knew it, those strangers became “people I was intimate with,” sharing similar truths and fears without the small talk associated with getting to know others.
“All of a sudden, we’re in the waiting room of an oncology office, and we’re on that raft together at sea, being authentic and honest and not being polite or hidden,” he said in a recent interview. ” When we willfully, or are forced, to share that authentically, that vulnerability, that’s when we discover resilience.”
Nepo said when we go through tough times, we have a natural opening, a new way, to become connected to the people around us.
That is among the key messages at the core of Nepo’s book, “More Together Than Alone, Discovering the Power and Spirit of Community in Our Lives and in The World.”
The book is the 20th for the bestselling author, who has also recorded 14 audio projects, according to his website.
He was part of Oprah Winfrey’s The Life You Want Tour in 2014 and has appeared several times with Winfrey on her Super Soul Sunday program on OWN TV.
“Facing what I am asked to face, and feeling what I am asked to feel, by going to the bottom of my own experience and personality, through that, I am suddenly connected to everyone who ever lived, and that rises and fills us with resilience,” he said.
Taking care of dying dad, moment of wonder
Nepo also wrote about the painful and beautiful experience of taking care of his aging father, who had a stroke. Nepo said he found himself feeding his father applesauce. It was a bittersweet, beautiful, hard, sad — and at the same time — wonderful moment.
“I began to cry, and all of a sudden the most amazing thing happened, I was in a moment of wonder. I tripped into the moment of every child who ever fed a dying parent,” he said. “I was able to feel others, in the past, in the future, alongside somewhere else in the world at the same time, and the joining through heart, of that common experience, I believe is resilience.”
Nepo uses examples drawn from history, from thought leaders across multiple disciplines and from the natural world to show how the darkest periods can create light.
“We’ve had these periods of enlightenment, like the Iberian Peninsula centered in Spain, from 750 to the 1400s, where Jews and Muslims and Christians not only tolerated each other, they thrived together,” he said.
“Some of the greatest examples of achievement and understanding and wisdom happened during that period, and it all goes back to how each of us has the courage, to make that choice between love and fear,” he added. “We’re more together than alone.”