“Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt” wrote Kurt Vonnegut in his satirical novel Slaughterhouse 5. The truth, of course, is that often much of what we see around us feels ugly, and quite a lot of things hurt. No one knew that more so than Vonnegut.
Building Resilience: ‘Bouncing Back’ is a workshop that the Wellbeing College regularly runs for those times when life feels like it’s deliberately out to hurt us, and beauty feels like it’s slipping fast into the distance.
The first question we ask learners on this workshop is what is resilience? The variation in responses never ceases to surprise, though this variation makes sense. The idea of ‘resilience’ is as malleable as the materials it describes – plastic, easily bent and moulded to the individual experience – so no wonder it reads differently from person to person.
Here are some answers from our October workshop:
Having purity of heart
Having the personal tools to cope
Nothing taking away who you are or your values
Managing to survive when losing a sense of purpose
Pride, face, ego, maintaining a sense of equality
How we cope with unexpected situations
Putting a barrier up – a wall of defense
Self-discipline and setting boundaries
Drawing on personal inner strength
Whether or not these match your own ideas of what it means to be resilient, one thing is certain: they represent the commonalities of the human experience when life starts to feel overwhelming and the strength, for better or worse, that we all potentiate.
Returning to “everything was beautiful and nothing hurt,” the musician Moby adopted the sentence for his 2016 album title, which he described as an exploration of “who we are as a species”.
After playing a couple of tracks in the office, I asked our student liaison co-coordinator Ben Lilford what he thought of the music.
“Dark, organic, morphing,” he said.
Pretty spot on for the species.