What COVID-19 is teaching me: Andrew Stallybrass

Andrew Stallybrass


The COVID-19 crisis is a global challenge for people from all over the world and all walks of life. Discover our interview with Andrew Stallybrass (UK/Switzerland) on how he experiences the current situation and which lessons he has been drawing from his time in lockdown. Andrew has been working for Initiatives of Change for many years. He currently lives in Caux, Switzerland, with his wife Eliane.


What is your current situation? How is the spread of COVID-19 impacting you?

Surprisingly little. My wife, Eliane, and I are both over 70, so ‘at risk’, but Caux is a lovely place to be ‘confined’.

Describe in 3 words how you are feeling right now?

Concerned. Worried. Hopeful.

What is your biggest challenge at the moment?

Priorities. What should I be doing now? I’m meant to be retired – but I have so many things to do, books to read, things to work on. My wife and I are both deeply involved in working on a new web platform, presenting the history of MRA/IofC, a kind of Wikipedia. A simply massive challenge.

What are the lessons you have already learned from this time?

A reminder of how privileged we are and have been. For 2-3 generations in our lucky part of the world, we’ve lived without major threats totally beyond our control. Now we’re back to normal: most of humanity, for most of history, has had to live with the fear of pestilence, war, natural disasters. All our wealth and our science cannot always protect us from every danger.

Do you practice quiet time? If yes: what is your practice and how does it help you?

Yes, pretty well every morning, for more than 50 years. A daily reading of some book or text that inspires, encourages, challenges me. Very rare moments of inspiration: the sense that something bigger than me, beyond me, is trying to give me new thoughts, ideas, inspiration. Much more often, a simple sense of the priorities for the day. A friend to be in touch with. A letter or an e-mail to write.

What are your best tips and tricks to fight anxiety/loneliness/uncertainty (whichever you struggle most with)?

Think of others, and get back to work.

How can we connect with others and support them when we have to barricade ourselves?

Simply connect. What amazing tools we now have, with Skype and Zoom and email and mobile phones.


What made you laugh today?

Not had a laugh yet, today. But there have been plenty of laughs and amusing moments. We’ve learnt that one of our two cats likes to go on walks with us (a 35-minute round in the forest near us). So yesterday, we met and crossed with a family who were absolutely amazed to meet a cat following his masters…

How would you (as a person) like to emerge from this crisis?

More at peace with myself and the world. More hopeful for the future of this precious, fragile planet.

What are you grateful for?

I am grateful for the IofC ‘slogan’: ‘Building trust across the world’s divides’. I was not a great fan of this phrase when it was introduced. It didn’t, for me, capture the essence of what we are meant to be about. Now I’m much more convinced! Trust is so needed for democracy and for human society to work. And trust is everywhere under attack. Fake news, rumors, lies… So often we hear, ‘They are not telling us the truth… They are hiding things from us… We don’t really know…’ I’m lucky to live in a democracy, with a free press, so yes, I trust our government. I trust Alain Berset, our Minister of Health. I trust the federal government. I trust what they tell me/us. I trust them all the more when they say they don’t know. That we’re all facing a disease and a situation that are new, unexpected. I trust that collectively they and we will learn how we could have done better, and how we can do better the next time – because there probably will be a next time. I trust that I as an individual, that our country, that our continent, that our world, can rely on a greater wisdom and love that can hold us all together, that can bring us into a wider community, where every single person matters, is cherished and respected, and can have a part in building a better future for us all.


Interview by Karina Cheah


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