Michele Rocco - April 2020

How are we building "bridges" from inside our homes to the outside?
What we are experiencing is unique and cannot be traced to previous human experiences: in size and modality. It’s like falling asleep in one world and waking up in another. If we think to look outside now, we know that what were once acts of ordinary human relations have become threats, weapons we do not even understand; but they are in our hands, in our embraces, in our breath, 'droplets' they call them, but they were also just considered sighs just a few days ago. What have our homes become? And how could we imagine these bridges to the outside? An image of the animal kingdom comes to my mind: personally, my home has become a cocoon. As we know, the butterfly lays its eggs in a way that they are hidden and protected, perhaps close to a plant the leaves of which can become nourishment for the caterpillar. That is the larva, a being with a very powerful chewing apparatus which it will use to create an opening through which to come out of the egg to feed. Thanks to its voracity, the caterpillar grows very quickly and after feeding abundantly, a resting period begins inside a cocoon. It’s there, inside the cocoon, that begins the most important transformation through metamorphosis; tearing down of old tissue and real lacerations. After a period of time, which could be very long, it frees itself of its protective shell and comes out with its wings, still curled up, that will slowly unfold to allow the butterfly that it has become to take flight. The ongoing emergency has forced us to return to and stay in our homes, with no more excuses to be able to postpone nourishing ourselves in our, imposing but rediscovered, cocoon. It will be a selective process, one that is dramatic and positive. Only those who, like the strongest caterpillars, are able to free themselves of the waste accumulated in their bodies, during the neo-nymphal phase of the chrysalis that we have been asked to reincarnate, will make it. And for us humans, with our reliance on intelligence, the waste will be well beyond just corporeality. It’s a restructuring of values and beliefs for each of us to join new collective consciences.

How will we restore our sociality and common spaces?
This health emergency, which has already become a social and economic emergency, does not distinguish between wealth, hierarchy or ethnicity. We have probably underestimated the extent of globalization which, over time, has made us closer and more connected. But a virus was enough to burn the distances, to shorten them far beyond what the web, the high speed trains, the supersonic frenzy of speed and connectivity stretching over oceans and continents ever allowed, without even an inch of optic fiber, and overwhelm all our (pseudo) certainties. I say, and believe, that we will have to resort to the gift of hope, which is then a gift of love. I’m talking about that hope which is in everything that is reborn, because I’m sure everything will be reborn. Just as in new love, we trust that the hope will be the right one, that it will last. So this emergency, by denying us the basic forms of the intrinsically relational qualities of human beings, hindering any form of physical interaction, is asking us to rethink relationships. In this perspective, common spaces are the territories of "new" relationships that are primarily at the service of sociality: I mean common spaces like our ecosystem demanding a definitive retaliation. We cannot continue living by negating our relational disposition, it’s against nature and therefore my plea is for a rediscovered corporeity, relived because human relationships cannot be manifested without a body against other corporealities. Let’s put it this way: to save our lives we were forced to distance ourselves, to isolate ourselves. But by saving ourselves we have undermined our cultural sense that makes use of the body, because the meeting place among people and the consequent social recognition that takes place – and it’s not just a word – through physical perception has disappeared. I must add that this crisis has only revealed what was already taking place. The part of the world closest to us – which, for now, is denied and forbidden – is the body which is the only means we have through which to relate to all things and beings. Therefore, the way to go, regarding sociality and spaces, is to re-establish a proxemic and all dimensions, affective and otherwise, covering all grounds. The first thing that comes to mind is a collective cry for a properly run health care system: let's give voice to healthy media, not necessarily aligned with the background noise of the mainstream, through art, with art and for art.

How shall we intervene in order to restore a balance between man and nature?
Man is not indispensable without intelligence. The world outside has continued to transpire, in fact there is extraordinary evidence of how much animals and plants have reclaimed the spaces that perhaps we had been undeservingly occupying until yesterday. Additionally, what seems like clean air, in large cities such as Milan, is not really so: in fact, PM10 rates are still high despite the fact that cars are no longer circulating: therefore, the issue of how and how much we should heat our houses arises again for example. I’m a manager who deals with sustainability, to depict it, above all, with numbers and facts. I say that now and in the immediate future that we don’t yet know, the way through is a single word: responsibility, which, in its most profound and etymological meaning, is the ability to find answers. And I would add that the real issue at this stage is to point at the right questions and I feel that there is confusion and that there are parts of responsibility being neglected by those who should provide us with answers. In my opinion, there are no alternatives other than revising the idea of city and living space: a progressive de-urbanization will have to be considered, one that makes countrysides more accessible rather than solitary adventures and epically tiresome places to reach.

What are we learning from this period?
Personally, I’m learning that to reach the outside – the place we are yearning for – one has to start from the inside, flipping the perspective: the wings of freedom, and anyone can define it in any way they wish to, are inside. And to accept a different speed, another restriction we have to deal with: they forced us to stand at a distance, to maintain our distance. Let’s imagine what happens (actually, used to happen) on the highway when one respects the safe distance during heavy traffic: one slows down. Distancing will bring us slower speeds in almost every existential area: we will have to learn to go slower.

Michele Rocco - Head of CSR monitoring & developement Intesa San Paolo, Personal coach-counselor-laughter, Yoga leader