Your NameNiels Devisscher
Cohort AssignmentEurope Summer-Fall 2023, Cohort 1
1. What do you see as your primary work at this stage of your life?

I am 26 years old now. At age 15, I fell in love with photography. I started to travel Europe scouting abandoned places. There is a strange beauty and mystique to disused monasteries, churches, or an old paper factory. Reflecting back on what drove my curiosity, I wrote: “Life, like the cottage in ruins, is impermanent. What is today will ultimately perish. Our bodies and buildings buried beneath the ground. Man-made structures crumble when the stories that created them have lost their meaning. In a secularized society, churches are left to decay and shopping malls have become the new places of worship. Mental asylums are closing down as our understanding of pathology and healing evolves. Abandoned places show that there is a possibility for decomposition and renewal in how we live, relate, and organize ourselves as a society. A ruin becomes a portal into the past, an invitation to tune into the present moment and reimagine the future, one that is founded on a different story altogether.”

At the age of 17, I picked up minimal landscape photography. I am fascinated by what I call the essence beneath the noise. You can talk to rocks and trees, and ask them how they want to be photographed; tune in to the story that wants to be told. As a photographer, you can reveal essence, and since in essence we are not separate, your images will touch the essence of people who perceive them. When this happens, you have ignited something deep within them. Await the silent murmuration. If magic is the act of changing consciousness in alignment with one’s will, good artwork is magic.

I went on the study international business in university. While it wasn’t really what my soul desired and got frustrated many times with how disconnected this world felt from life/nature itself (even though it is embedded within and fully relies on it), I have come to see the world of entrepreneurship can really benefit from the artistic mindset I bring. On top of that, I have quite the mediator personality, and take pleasure in the possibility of holding different, divergent perspectives, keep space for a multitude of ideas, and act as a bridge between worlds. After working as an analyst and content strategist at a mental wellness impact fund, I got acquainted first with impact investing and later with “regeneration”. As someone who studied the living world up closely through photography, it was amazing to see that there was this entire field of practitioners and thought leaders actively applying living principles to diverse fields. (continued in Q2)

2. What role do you see as yours to play?

What I see as my role to play is to bring regeneration into the field of marketing and communications. I want communicators to consider the impact that their language and practice has on the living world, and co-create a community of practice where they can engage with new ways of knowing and being and take inspiration from life to infuse their communications work. To give human voice to other-than-human realms and amplify the relationships that enable agency and transformation; to think about what other agencies exist, and how we can start to co-create products and services alongside life. Together with my co-founders, I am setting up a learning platform called re:storied where communicators can learn about regenerative communications and learn the tools and practices to evolve their work.

I think the perspective that I bring is one of a deep listener, perceptive to the subtle shifts and changes in nature around and within. I am very creative and think visually and in metaphor. While I wouldn’t say I’m a great vocal communicator, I love writing and weaving diverse perspectives. My role is to serve life and the unfolding of collective aliveness through these gifts, while being humble about the things I don’t know — surrounding myself with inspiring people who are expert generalist in their own right.

3. What goals or aims do you have in regard to the above?

Learn from and talk to a wide diversity of people, which in part is why I am joining this course.

Apply what I already know to a specific context.

Create the social and emotional infrastructure to collectively deal with collapse and design new future pathways.

Build unlikely alliances

4. Where do you feel your next arenas for personal growth are?

In a regenerative world, I don’t believe there is a difference between personal and professional growth, so I will answer these questions here together.

To be alive is to hold the plight of the world dearly without being succumbed by it. Living this truth is more difficult for me than naming it.

To be patient towards others and myself.
To make a living within capitalism while sowing the seeds of a new system that radically rethinks value exchange and decommodifies what belongs to the community

To express myself more fully, and to invite people into my world and what I have learned while meeting them where they are.

To execute things before starting others

5. And for professional growth?

See above

6. What have you invested in to get you where you are?

Time, trust, money, privilege, love.

7. What fields of learning and which thinkers have been important in your life?

I have noticed that I feel a strong pull towards thinkers who embody either/both the Buddha or/and Trickster archetype. For the trickster, I often resonate with those who in their overturning of the social order and dominant paradigms simultaneously reinstate them in some strange alchemical way; those who speak from a place of radical truth. In this regard, I’ve taken great inspiration from thinkers like Bayo Akomolafe, Rebecca Solnit, Gabor Mate, Hannah Arendt, Alan Watts, Graham Hancock, Terence McKenna, Aldous Huxley, Jeremy Lent, Charles Eisenstein, Kyle Whyte, Vandana Shiva, Tyson Yunkaporta, Nora Bateson, and of course, Carol Sanford. Within the eco-writing realm, I love the work of David Abram, Andreas Weber, Stephen Harrod Buhner, Michael Pollan, Robert Macfarlane, Nan Shephard, Francis Weller, Martin Shaw (as you can see, I have a strong desire to dive deeper into the classics as most of these are fairly contemporary).

As for the Buddha archetype, great inspirations are Roshi Joan Halifax, Martin Prechtel (I guess his words are just so enlightening and healing), Thích Nhất Hạnh, Mary Oliver, Jane Goodall, Ocean Vuong, David White, John O’Donohue.

8. Can you frame your philosophy or cosmology of life? What role(s) do humans play in it?

- The world is animate, alive, and breathing and we are enveloped in it
- We have an intrinsic drive to move towards higher orders of aliveness and beauty. Our role as humans is to understand what it is and feels like in its deepest core and create more of it.
- Humans carry a responsibility to act as Nature on behalf of and alongside Nature.
- Love is the great invisible underpinning everything, yet so often we lose it if we don’t pay close attention
- Those who listen will receive guidance — We swim in deep waters of wisdom
- We navigate in topographies of feeling — your feelings are valid and say something about the world at the outer edges of your skin
- The world is chaotic and we work to create order but it’s never fully achievable. Too much order invites its opposite. Too much chaos destabilizes.
- The universe is filled with mystery. Mystery is like the fog you step into. Poetry and visual art build our capacity to sit with it. Try to explain the mystery too much and it will start to lift. A healthy relationship with mystery helps us to live in the present more fully.
- Ethics is a practice, not a theoretical philosophy
- A question is something you live rather than answer

Date CreatedAugust 28, 2023