Chapter Generosity — The Future 2022
Reflections, by Alexandra Lichaa
So, I was asked to share with you reflections on this year’s chapter, GENEROSITY, but where does it start?
I am not sure if it began with all my thoughts long before the unthinkable experiment or when I first met the other participants.
But anyway, it’s really hard to think that, you’re going to meet people you don’t know, from different backgrounds, cultures, religions, nationalities, and live with them for a few days. ‘A ship in harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are built for’, and so is the mind, meant to sail and be challenged. I believe people can only go beyond their thoughts and preconceived ideas when they are pushed out of their comfort zone. Thinking the unthinkable was all about that, it was a very unique experience, where we were able to break down barriers and explore new territories.
Through this experiment, one of the first things we immediately agreed on was that there is not a single definition for the word generosity. It is a whole concept that cannot be explained in just a few minutes or a few words. Actually, I found out that the concept of generosity isn’t as unified as I thought it would be. The more I listened to others’ points of view and experiences with generosity, the more I discovered that the understanding of this word is very divergent.
Let’s try something, close your eyes, remember the last time you were generous, I hope it wasn’t a long time ago, and you can still remember what it was. I’ll give you a few seconds… When was it? Who were you generous to? What was the context?
If you’re thinking of something, ask yourself these questions, why is it generous, you thinking it’s generous makes it so? Or because the receiver said it was? If the receiver didn’t like your offering, is it considered generosity? Did it take an effort for you to do? What if it wasn’t something meaningful for you?
Now, think! Were you expecting something in return? A smile? Personal gratification? God’s blessing? Then is it real generosity or some kind of trade? And one last question could the receiver be you? Can one be generous to himself?
I hope you now get a tiny peek of our different visions, and a glimpse of some of the topics we discussed. Generosity was hardly defined, yet each one of us shared a deep instinctive understanding of it, that allowed us all to illustrate the concept, every group in their own particular way.
As you may know, the experiment was split into 2 main phases. The period between phase 1 and phase 2 of the experiment was very confusing to a lot of us. The term ‘generosity’ was always somewhere in the back of our minds. It is funny how the mind works. Frequency illusion or recency bias, the more we talked about generosity, the more we saw it in every small action around us. Was it always the case and we just became more aware of it, or did we form a new understanding to the concept? Nobody knows, but we were happy and grateful to witness it all around.
The experiment was hard, by the end of it, we felt drained of all our ideas. We couldn’t think of anything else than generosity yet we had no more thoughts. This shared mind-set helped build friendships even between different teams. I’ll keep a very fond memory of this whole experiment that pushed me to the limits of my thoughts.
Now before I finish, if you want my take-home message, take a few seconds to think how you can be generous (3s.). If you want my advice? Make it unthinkable, it does not matter how, just make it happen soon.
I would like to thank in the name of all the participants,
Rectrice Caroline Pauwels who we unfortunately did not all get to meet.
Thank you Koen for opening your studio and trusting us with your chickens (some had the idea to kill them and offer them grilled to the neighbours – blame it on generosity).
Thanks to the VUB, ULB, to rectrice Annemie Schaus and professor Karine Van Donick.
Thank you to each member of the transdisciplinary team,
to Frans, for the guidance, jokes and late night talks
Jonas for the beautiful singing, and counselling
Joris for all the motivation and emotional support
I’d also like to thank Peter for asking us all the hard questions he could think of.
Thank you Petra, and all the amazing organisers of Studio Koen Vanmechelen,
and a big thank you to the supporting foundations MOUTH, and INNOVIRIS
This would not have been possible without you all, so thank you.
Bench of Heritage by Dries Truyers
Our Plans for The Future
Reflections on The Unthinkable Experiment, Chapter Generosity, and some proposals for the future.
8 October, ULB Brussels
8th Oct 2022