Alberto Cairo: what shows up when you are OPEN to Possibility

The default human condition: dead to Possibility

The default condition of human existence is dead to Possibility. Are there any exceptions? Yes, young children – their world is Possibility and then we set about draining that out of them so that they can be like us, dead to Possibility. What do I mean when I say “dead to Possibility”? I got present to one instance of this just today. It was a beautiful day – sunshine, blue skies, calm – and I wanted to go for a walk just after lunch. I fell asleep. When I woke up it was around 4pm and it looked like that sun was about to go to sleep. Automatically, I was dead to the Possibility of going out for a walk and enjoying that walk. Why because I was dead to the Possibility that I could go out, walk and enjoy the experience of walking at that time. Nonetheless, I went out for that walk and walked for 90 minutes and thoroughly enjoyed that walk. And the sun did not go to sleep, it stayed and I even got to experience some of its magic on my face.

How else does ‘dead to Possibility’ show up in our lives? When I say this is how I am and am not – a nail in the coffin of Possibility. When I say this is how you are – another nail in the coffin of Possibility. When I say this is how they are – another nail. When I say this is the way that world is and is not – another nail. And especially when I say this is simply not reasonable, acceptable, practical, possible – that is a whole set of nails into the coffin of Possibility.

How do we live when we are living from the context of ‘dead to Possibility’? We do not take risks – especially not risks to our life, our financial security and our reputation. We do not break the rules – especially those that threaten our freedom, our standing, our financial security. And we ignore everything that is not a priority. The last one is a beauty. Why? Because the priority is simply surviving, fixing and striving to look good and avoid looking bad. Generating new realms of Possibility is a luxury, it is not a priority, and so we spend our lives surviving and fixing and then one day we die. That someday when everything is perfect and we can focus on what really matters to us, never arrives.

What shows up when one is open to Possibility?

Everything that is shows up in our world as new is because someone was open to Possibility. If I open to the Possibility of a new relationship with my wife then I set the context for that new relationship to arise. If I open to the Possibility of doing fulfilling work then I set the context for me to create that outcome and/or for that Possibility to show up in my life. And so forth.

I have a question for you. What is possible for this man in Afghanistan whilst the war is raging, no government is really in place, there is no law and order or social security, and where people are busy doing their best to survive:

  • He has no legs;
  • He has only one arm;
  • He is illiterate; and
  • He has no skills

I assume, if you are like me, that you would say not much. You’d say he is condemned to begging and that is exactly what Mahmood was doing. Wheeled about by his young son Rafi, he spent is days begging.

Enter Alberto Cairo and his right hand man Najmuddin. The first is a humane man, the second is an unreasonable man. Most of us get what a humane person is – s/he is a person that is willing to take risks to exercise care for his fellow human being. He is the one that even when the bombs and bullets are flying around (in Afghanistan) gets out of his car to help a man (Mahmood) and his young son (Rafi). Why? He can see that Mahmood is stranded in his wheelchair and Rafi is not strong enough to push the wheelchair (and Mahmood) to safety. He is the man that offers to give/make artificial limbs to Mahmood.

Perhaps it is more interesting to ask the question, “What is so about an unreasonable man?” An unreasonable man is simply one that is not ‘dead to Possibility’. He is man who stands in the space of Possibility – he can see what can be, he is willing to try out new stuff, to give it a go.

What is possible when you take people like Mahmood and put them in relationship with both Alberto and Najmuddin? Watch this touching-inspiring TED talk by Alberto where he shares a story that moved me deeply:

I want to leave you with a few quotes that really speak to me:

Alberto Cairo: “It’s not a priority!”

Najmuddin: “Listen, now we are here, at least we can start repairing the prosthesis, the broken prosthesis of the people. And maybe try to do something for people like Mahmood”

Mahmood: “You have taught me to walk, thank you very much. Now help me not to be a beggar anymore. My children are growing and I am ashamed. I do not want them to be teased at school by the other students.”

Mahmood: “I ask for a job. I am a scrap of a man but if you help me I am ready to do anything even if I have to crawl on the ground!”

Alberto: “Legless, only one arm, illiterate, unskilled. What job for him?”

Najmuddin: “There is vacancy in the carpentry shop!”

Alberto: “That’s insane. It is cruel to offer him this job knowing he will fail!”

Alberto: “I could not believe it….Mahmood was the fastest on the production line…The production was up 20%!”

Najmuddin: ” Mahmood has something to prove.”

Aberto: “Mahmood stood taller. What made him stand taller? Dignity. He regained his dignity thanks to the job.”

Final Word

Alberto, Najmuddin and Mahmood became open to and created a new Possibility: employing as many disabled people as possible on the production line, within the UN centre, and further.

If you have not watched the TED video (above) then I urge you to watch it. It is only 19 minutes long and that time will fly by – his talk is moving and inspiring.