Category: Coronavirus

Letting go to let come …re-assessing death and desire in a post-pandemic world

By Dr Charlotte von Bülow

The current situation is a harsh and unforgiving reality for most people around the globe. People are suffering and many are losing livelihoods or lives. We must keep all those people in our awareness as we, who are self-isolating but essentially still have our good health, are given the opportunity to reflect and re-imagine new ways of thinking, feeling and being on this planet.

Let us take note: the climate crisis did not bring the world of work to a standstill – it was a sudden widespread fear of statistics showing impending illness and death that did it. It took a global pandemic to make us stop and think. Most of the people I have talked to in the last three weeks describe their inner state as a strange combination of deep anxiety about the future and a sense of liberation from the treadmill.

Each day at work as an educational activist, researcher, consultant or coach, I engage deeply with others in the following questions:

    • What would a post-pandemic economy look like?
    • What is the impact on our attention as a result of a life led primarily online?
    • What can we do to ensure that this situation is not only a crisis but an opportunity?
    • What have we learnt so far from not having the things we think we need at our fingertips?
    • Can we start to re-evaluate our so-called needs and wants in light of what we are experiencing now, and can we put such learning to good use in the design of new ways of being on this planet?

With various countries offering support to employers and the self-employed, a new era has begun for sure, but are we gratefully taking what is being offered whilst continuing to hanker after what we knew and what we had? Or are we ready to embrace the new and, if so, at what cost?

I recommend reading The Coronation by Charles Eisenstein and I suggest you ponder his perspective. It is a longish read but stick with it and tell us what you think. I invite you to contemplate in particular Eisenstein’s point about our relationship to death and dying well. In my view, it is not only our relationship to death itself but the death also of what we desire.

This point about death and the relinquishment of desire is made also by Professor Jem Bendell, whose forthcoming book I am honoured to author a chapter for with my co-researcher, Charlotte Simpson. Charlotte and I are asking educators, pupils, parents and activists four questions inspired by the Deep Adaptation framework:

    • Resilience: what aspects of education as we know it would we want to keep developing and learn from in a climate of change and complexity?
    • Relinquishment: what aspects of our current education system would we want to let go of?
    • Restoration: what would we want to re-introduce in education, for example, can we re-imagine past practices and can we learn from other cultures past and present?
    • Reconciliation: how do we facilitate hope and agency in the hearts and minds of children and young people and the people who take responsibility for their education?

How do we learn to let go in order to let come? We talk of innovation but where do we find the courage to commit to actual tangible change? Professor Gert Biesta speaks and writes about The Beautiful Risk of Education and he gives education of the future the task of figuring out how we can put our desires in perspective. If the health of our planet and all living beings on it relies on a major attitude shift, re-evaluating our relationship to death and the relinquishing of desires has to be among the things we need to work on now.

… there is so much more to say but, for now, join the debate. Let us know what the current situation is inspiring you to do differently. Share


Dr Charlotte von Bülow is a Senior Lecturer in Leadership at the Bristol Business School, Faculty of Business and Law, University of the West of England. She is the Founder of the Crossfields Institute Group (UK) a recognised awarding organisation for holistic and integrative education, a higher education institute and a consultancy for supporting change in businesses, charities and communities. Charlotte served as the CEO of the Crossfields Institute Group for twelve years and is the founding Director of Crossfields Europa (based in Denmark), a branch within the group offering consulting and executive coaching internationally. Charlotte has worked as a consultant and executive coach for over a decade, serving individuals, groups and organisations the world over.