Joris De Kelver

In an effort to better understand the world, I plunged into the scientific world as an eighteen-year-old by pursuing studies in civil engineering. By the time I graduated, I intuitively felt that I did not want to become a "real" engineer. I became more intrigued by the financial and economic world because at that time I didn't understand a thing about it and I decided to work at the Belgian bank Dexia. It ended up taking me more than ten years to somewhat grasp the complexity of the financial sector. I 'enjoyed' being in the front row during the global financial crisis of 2008 and the European debt crisis of 2011, because they accelerated my understanding of the financial system. Over the years, I took on different roles to finally become, at the age of 40, deputy CFO of Belfius, the bank that emerged in 2011 from the ashes of the imploded Dexia.

Although my last role was very challenging, I realized that I was rarely wowed by my work anymore. Gradually a fear grew upon me that I would be trapped in a context where I would become more and more alienated from myself. After a year of tossing and turning - a process that was further intensified by the death of my father - it suddenly became crystal clear to me that it was time for a new chapter in my life. To everyone's surprise, I announced at the end of 2019 that I would be leaving the company, even though there were more intense corporate adventures waiting for me. But it went as Schopenhauer wrote: ‘What we most often, indeed almost necessarily disregard in our life designs are the changes that time produces in ourselves. That is why we so often work toward things that, when we finally reach them, no longer suit us.

 After I left in February 2020, I allowed myself a sabbatical without knowing what this period of reflection would bring me, but trusting the words of P. D. Ouspensky: 'It is only when we realise that life leads us nowhere that it makes sense.' My sabbatical became a fascinating journey of sometimes difficult introspection, lots of reading, returning to college, hiking, and enriching encounters. During my reading spree, I was inspired by David Bohm's book On Dialogue, in which he explains that there has never been a greater need for deeper listening and open authentic communication to face the complex problems facing our organisations, businesses and society. This view is directly opposed to the trend in our "culture of haste" that favours brevity, which makes promoting critical thinking problematic. It was an eye opener for me to read that many of the problems we face are the regrettable result of the malpractice of our thinking.

This insight made me want to delve deeper into the 'human condition' and so I enrolled in 'The School of Thinking', a postgraduate program at the VUB and a wonderful chance to rediscover the joys of doubt and wonder. I now really understand how essential self-knowledge is when trying to grasp the reality around you. Meanwhile, the idea of pure objectivity by eliminating subjectivity and emotions seems utopian to me. Kant already knew that our knowledge is co-constructed by our own mind. Therefore, I think it is necessary to integrate the knowledge of the human mind, with all its emotions and feelings, into our own thinking and I am convinced that personal development can create a more conscious society.

How can we liberate ourselves from our conditioned individual and collective thinking patterns and how can we use our imagination to create a society in which human beings can live even more meaningful lives? This is a question that I am trying to find an answer to and that I want to work on with Multiversity.

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