Catch the fish, don’t let it get away: The encounter as a path

Catch the fish, don’t let it get away: The encounter as a path

The fourth Spanish-Portuguese Conference for people with support needs

Federación Hispano-Portuguesa de Pedagogía Curativa y Terapia Social

“Catch the fish, don’t let it get away. The encounter as a path” – This call is the theme for the fourth Spanish-Portuguese meeting for people with support needs, which the institutions of the Spanish-Portuguese Federation for Curative Education and Social Therapy are preparing for this year 2020. This time the Tobias Association in Madrid is responsible for the organization of this travelling meeting. It is a co-founding institution of the Spanish-Portuguese Association for Curative Education and Social Therapy, and since 1997 it has formed a living community for the most vulnerable people.

It is difficult, in light of the events we are currently facing, to consider whether this Congress for people with support needs can be held in physical form, as the limitations faced by the world population are unlikely to allow such a celebration. However, the chosen theme, which we carefully prepare in our centers, can act as a spiritual balm and meeting place within our movement and thus for humanity as a whole.

Against the background of the legend of Tobias, we can reflect on the qualities of “encounter as path”.

Everyone knows the picture painted by Francesco Botticini in 1470, which shows us in the central part of the picture the young Tobias accompanied by the archangel Raphael (the divine physician), who in his gracious inspiration helps to put destinies in order by acting as a carrier of healing and as a source of inspiration and teaching in therapeutic practice. This central image is flanked by the archangel Gabriel, carrying a white lily, wrapped in a blue tunic that covers his shoulders and back, and a green one that accompanies his naked steps, symbols of earthly birth, at the right of the viewer. On the left, Archangel Michael wears metallic armour and in his left hand a golden ball, the waist girded by the red scabbard, a colour that we can also see in his trousers and cape. In his right hand he holds firmly a pointed sword pointing upwards and his gaze is directed towards the eyes of the beholder, reminding us that we are all standing at the threshold of death.

The young Tobias raises his eyes and puts his right hand trustingly in the hand of wisdom, knows himself accompanied in the loneliness of the winding road, and holds the cure for his ailments and pain in the form of a fish in his hand.

We can observe here the vulnerability to the point of possible fall, the experience of loneliness and separation, even in the presence of the neighbour, the profane observer. With the joy of encounter, of understanding, of attraction, we can become one with the image until we become participants in the message, perceiving the background that this image shows like no other, the NOT-LONELINESS, the accompaniment on the way, the multiple facets of the hidden secrets, giving security on the hard way, through the warmth that is expressed in the free will that travels in search of its freedom.

Perhaps, yes, it is a hidden struggle that we are living today, all against all, to which we have quietly become accustomed, and which is now showing itself. Today, fear narrows our center, our breathing is cut off, our circulation is squeezed where the exchange between what lives inside and the outside world takes place. This area of reflection, interest, hope, empathy and wonder, vitality and compassion, denial and devotion to others is threatened today.

“Tobias takes from the fish that is thrown to him to swallow him, the medicine to cure Sarah and Tobit. Here the fish is the symbol of the difficulties that humans have to accept and from which they receive the help to overcome them.

When we are confronted with a problem, we can take two positions: either we flee from the problem or we face it and realize that by overcoming the obstacles we become a different person. It is the obstacles that help us to grow in our abilities and thus to reach faith and trust in ourselves”.

This is the message that our brothers/sisters/colleagues of Tobias from Madrid are giving us as a thought in preparation for the fourth regional congress of persons with support needs.

These days of introspection can become a great opportunity to extract out of freedom the eternal humanity that we all carry within us, and thus to contribute to the humanization of the individual, of society, which today is so threatened by dehumanizing selfishness and the penetration of the forces of transhumanism, driven by technological advances and artificial intelligence. Yes, the artificiality, the artificiality that separates us from what is really essential.

From this perspective it is natural that uncertainty leads to fear, anxiety, separation. Today more than ever, the disposition of a noble spirit, devotion to the task of loving care for others, for nature, for our society, can become healing forces where the You and the I can bring forth the essential “We”.

We are all experiencing moments of uncertainty at this time, in which we deal with this extraordinary situation that we are currently experiencing out of the intimacy of our being.

BEING, BEING THERE AND DOING take on an even deeper meaning today: Where can we look for answers to the uncertainty, how can we give valid answers to the current situation, what can I do, what can we do? Of course, these and other questions arise within us and want to accompany the resolutions of our precious good, the “free will”. We all have opinions, we all have feelings and we all have the possibility to control our actions.

Our therapeutic communities, whether curative educational or social therapeutic, have always been characterised by the fact that they make a good life possible by making reverse inclusion their identity. In these times when external activity is limited by the exceptional measures imposed by governments, companions and associates keep the flame burning. We take care of the rooms, each protecting the other.

In the communities we continue to care for the environment, the animals, the gardens, keep the places full of life as they always were, we also do the logistical tasks for the supply of food, cleaning products, etc. In some cases new rhythms are introduced to make the restrictions more bearable, and the hygiene and disinfection measures are very intensive. Through artistic practice, even more attention is paid to physical and emotional nutrition and the awareness of who you are, how you are and what you have to do is sharpened.

Knowing that we are accompanied by loving care, focused on what we should be living now, ordered in the procedures we use, giving importance to the smallest gesture, the smallest feeling, the smallest thought, helps us to trust that we will soon be able to celebrate the overcoming of this epidemic, this contagious disease that reminds us how important it is to take care of each other so that we do not become victims of outward appearances, ignorance, fear and terror.

Nature shows us that life in our surroundings lives on, waiting to be welcomed, and that it also emerges from within us as the SOCIAL-ARTISTIC that fills our body, our soul and also our spirit.

We learn from COVID-19 at this time when nature is striving for reunification anew.

(Fidel Ortega Dueñas)