Have you ever been in a situation, like being in an elevator with someone you don’t know, of feeling the awkwardness as you both are looking forward at the door as if the other person isn’t there: you suddenly break the silence with the profound observation of… “Nice weather we’re having lately, huh?” to which they reply “Yeah, it sure has been.”
I’m pretty sure most people can relate to the previous example if not a hundred others we have experienced at the grocery store, in school or at work where we have relied on ‘small talk’ as our go-to form of communication, saying things like “Hi, how are you?” to replies like “Fine, and you?” only to end it there and carry on your merry way when in fact you are feeling like hell that day and it would have been really supportive for you to actually express that with honesty and perhaps have a conversation with someone about what choices have led up to that current state of being.
So why do we continue to play this game when we all feel to some extent that it is not truly serving us to do so and we can feel there is so much more for us to share with the world, learn from, and grow by?
Are we afraid that someone will judge us for what we have to say or that by exposing how we truly feel we will be too exposed in that vulnerable state and be either rejected or hurt by how the other responds? It feels to me that there are so many things that happen to us as we grow up where we are not really honoured for what we have to say (especially when adults consider their views and knowledge to be more important or worthy based on their age or experience in life).
In fact, I feel it is our duty to not hold this wisdom back as we all bring such a unique aspect to the world based on all these lived experiences, whether in this life or past ones. It would be a shame to hold back sharing this with the world, would it not? And even though we may not have conscious memories of all these experiences, we can move our bodies with self-care and love in a way that allows that innate wisdom to come through us, knowing that even the smallest gesture of concern or expression of how you truly feel from your body with another can change someone’s day and allow them to not only know that other people care, but that through sharing honestly how we feel it allows others to feel safe about doing the same, thus bringing more awareness and truth to their lives.
There have been countless times where something inside me gave me an impulse to spark up a conversation with, for instance, the check-out clerk at the grocery store, and what unfolded was a beautiful sharing that resulted in our both feeling very connected to, understood, and expanded in a way that carried that lovely feeling into the rest of our day. You can feel someone’s eyes light up when someone takes the time to appreciate something about them and show them that you care. It truly is a catalyst that can trigger a transformation in us when we drop our protection or guard – that is based on a previous difficult relationship or past hurt – and give people a chance to be themselves without any feeling that they will not live up to our expectations.
Relying on ‘small talk’ as our typical mode of communication really does keep us ‘small,’ but allowing ourselves to be open by going a bit deeper each time we interact with people can lead to an evolving form of relationship that may surprise with just how much we all have to offer each other.
So, by making the effort to not settle for ‘small talk’ but instead be willing to take the conversation to the next level, we can all move towards a form of relationship with each other that brings us closer together and makes life more about evolving as a humanity and less about merely existing and getting through another day, week and year without that connection and expansion that we all can feel in our hearts is our true way.
Recently a friend used a figure of speech while describing a situation involving an unexpected detail that later turned out to be crucial to the success of their project, but after going unnoticed, caused further disruption and complications to occur. It made me contemplate the meaning and foundation of this now commonly known idiom.
Many people may be familiar with the phrase ‘the Devil’s in the details’, which some claim was originally used by the atheist German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (in German: “Der Teufel steckt im Detail”(1)) and later adopted by many other cultures around the world, although paradoxically the exact ‘details’ of its origin seem difficult to determine. It generally “refers to problems or difficulties that result from the unforeseen nature of unexamined details. It refers to a catch hidden in the details rather than the truth in its abstract sense.”(2) This was indeed the saying used by my friend during our discussion, but after having a feeling that something did not seem right about that phrase (probably stemming from the fact that I personally have never believed in the existence of the ‘Devil’), I decided to do a little digging into the true foundation of this phrase.
What I found confirmed my suspicions, in that the original saying had at some point been morphed into its current variation and lost the essence of its meaning along the way. The expression ‘the Devil’s in the details’ is actually a derivation of the original saying ‘God is in the detail’ which is usually attributed to German/American architect Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, but more aptly originated from an older German proverb (‘Der liebe Gott steckt im detail’) (3) of an unknown source.
“The idea was that whatever one does should be done thoroughly and the truth, if it exists, is in the details.”(1) This approach invokes the consideration that in every little detail of movement, whether it be in the form of a thought, the spoken word, or physical action, there exists a greater Truth, and that these movements can either heal or harm us as a humanity.
In essence, honouring the original iteration of this phrase that holds God and all that He represents to be in the details of everyday life offers us the opportunity to appreciate not only our divine connection with Him, but how if we allow ourselves to feel it, we can see God’s signature in so many things around us. Take the twinkle in the eye of a young child who is being cheeky and playful, the way the Sun can suddenly emerge from a cloudy sky and cascade its light all around you but somehow leaves the surrounding landscape in the shadows, or how just at the right moment a close friend tenderly puts their hand on your shoulder in a gesture of support when you need it most.
I feel that what we are also talking about here is how we view the word ‘truth’. If it is acknowledged in a favourable sense that we can notice how God expresses His energy in every little detail we observe in Nature (like the gentle flapping of a butterfly’s wings to the infinite complexity of the human body and its inner workings), it also exposes how saying something like ‘the devil is in the details’ suggests that we are avoiding the Truth of a situation or what is being presented to us in life in order to grow and evolve.
An example of this would be how we know alcohol is chemically a poison to human cells, yet we continue to consume it in massive quantities at the great expense of our minds and bodies, with all sorts of social consequences of its usage(4). Or how we have had not one but two ‘World Wars’, and even with the devastating loss of life, infrastructure collapse, torture, and multi-generational psychological damage that ensued during that period, we continue to engage in the very same wars across the globe, and somehow find ridiculous ways to justify their existence.
In light of the recent fire that devastated the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019, there were many things that occurred in response to this event that felt very disturbing to me and highlight both the current and historical hypocrisies that exist in our business and geopolitical landscapes.
Soon after the blaze was extinguished and the damage was assessed, there was a groundswell of support to fund the rebuilding of the structure after the French president Emmanuel Macron promised to rebuild the structure within the next five years.
“Major donations kicked off the evening of the fire, with French billionaires (and often competitors) Francois Pinault and Bernard Arnault pledging €100 million and €200 million, respectively. Over the next few days, companies like L’Oreal, Société Générale, and JCDecaux all made multi-million dollar pledges” the New York Times reported, “bringing the total donations up to €850 million, or about $995 million. That was all before American companies like Apple chipped in, bringing the total donations to more than $1 billion.” (1)
Archpriest Nikolai V. Balashov, the vice chairman of the department of external relations for the Russian Orthodox Church, called the fire “a huge tragedy for the whole Christian world,” and said that Russians value “these wonders of the old God’s world, these remnants of holy wonders.” (2)
It is very telling that we can raise $1 billion dollars virtually overnight to fix a building but can turn a blind eye to the many challenges that real human beings are experiencing. Thousands of people lined the streets of Paris and the Seine river to mourn the destruction of the Notre Dame cathedral (once again, a building, not a person) while in their own country the rates of the above social issues continue to rise. Where is the public out cry to fundraise for these problems?
And on that note, another very telling fact is that Pope Francis himself, the global leader of the Catholic church, is not contributing one cent to the restoration of the burned cathedral of Notre Dame, which has been a major landmark symbolising the Catholic church for 860 years. The pope stated after the fire in words sent to the Archbishop Michel Aupetit of Paris:
“Following the fire that ravaged a large part of Notre Dame Cathedral, I join you in your sorrow, as well as that of the faithful of your diocese, the inhabitants of Paris, and all the French people.” (3)
Instead of money, he only offered his prayers to the inhabitants of France and those mourning the partial loss of the structure at the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.
Most estimates of the current net wealth of the Vatican alone place it between $10 -15 billion, but the total wealth of the Catholic Church worldwide, with all its real estate holdings (that combined are as large as the Canadian province of Alberta), investments in virtually every aspect of business and finance, and all its parishes across the globe is almost impossible to determine due to the secrecy and lack of accountability of religious organisations, but it has been stated by a nationally syndicated Catholic priest that:
“The Catholic church, he said, must be the biggest corporation in the United States. We have a branch office in every neighborhood. Our assets and real estate holdings must exceed those of Standard Oil, A.T.&T., and U.S. Steel combined. And our roster of dues-paying members must be second only to the tax rolls of the United States Government.” To add to this statement another financial analyst noted; “But this is just a small portion of the wealth of the Vatican, which in the U.S. alone is greater than that of the five wealthiest giant corporations of the country. When to that is added all the real estate, property, stocks and shares abroad, then the staggering accumulation of the wealth of the Catholic church becomes so formidable as to defy any rational assessment.” (4)
Let’s not forget that the Catholic Church does not pay any taxes, including capital gains and property taxes, and all the donations that go to them are tax free. These tax savings amount to several billion dollars a year. With the facts stated above, and this is only scratching the surface of the total wealth of the Catholic Church, the fact that the Pope has not offered one cent to the reconstruction of the Notre Dame cathedral is an act of greed almost beyond any scale that could be imagined and exposes the corruption that has fuelled this religious organisation since its inception.
Another graphic display of this corruption displayed by the Catholic Church can be found when in 2012 The Roman Catholic Diocese of Antigonish in Nova Scotia, Canada sold 250 properties and liquidated its assets to pay a $15-million settlement for sexual abuse involving clergy Rev. Raymond Lahey.
“… the bishop [Rev Raymond Lahey] who brokered the multimillion-dollar sex-abuse settlement deal, was then sentenced to 15 months in custody after he was charged with the possession of child pornography. Phyllis MacDonald, a member of St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in Port Hood, Nova Scotia stated, “Now we have to raise money to keep above ground, to keep our parishes going, to pay for heat in the church.” Ms. MacDonald said the settlement, which has forced cash-strapped parishes to give nearly all their reserves to the diocese, should be paid by the top level of the church hierarchy, the Vatican. “They came like thieves in the night to take our money and they took it away without even blinking an eye,” Ms. Samson, a former Catholic nun and active member of her parish in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia said. “It’s a shame. It’s our parents that worked to place [the churches] there and our grandparents, and they don’t care. They just have to sell them.” But the church said there is no alternative source. “We have no indication that the Vatican sees or is able to do something,” said Rev. Paul Abbass, a spokesman for the Diocese of Antigonish based in New Glasgow, on the eastern mainland.”(5)
This seems like the Vatican is punishing the people that comprise these local Catholic parishes by making them pay for a massive child sex abuse settlement when they could easily cover the cost for a case like this that involves one of their own employees. It also sends a message to the local people as a deterrent for others to speak up, lest they all have to pay out of their own pockets for something like this in the future.
When we respond to these events I feel it is important to consider the whole picture and exactly what type of organisation we are providing support for, especially when considering monetary donations. And in the case of the Notre Dame cathedral after the current fire that partially destroyed it, let’s allow the richest organisation in the world to pay for its own building’s restoration and consider that this fire may have been a karmic sign of all that the Catholic Church has been responsible for during its history of torture, war, child sexual abuse, slavery, and financial corruption. Because when we support a project and an organisation like this in any way, we are by default condoning the very deleterious behaviour that we would never want to have in our society.