On a daily basis, they watch over others

Vigils, watchmen, watchmen, guards, sentries… The list is long of the trades associated with the day before. Some focus their attention on technical devices that ensure the production and delivery of goods essential to everyone’s life, such as water or energy. Others ensure by their presence the safety of goods and people in their activities or their daily movements. Still others show themselves attentive, as in the care services, to the needs of a naked, fragile life, in the ordeal of illness or old age. These shadow or night trades are essential to collective life. But it must be recognized: those who occupy them are hardly paid accordingly. It is a paradox of our time: our society takes little care of those who look after others.

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However, watching is not just for professionals. We have all had the experience of waiting for the arrival of a loved one, sometimes late at night and whom we have not heard from (it was before cell phone time). Our fight against sleep has never accelerated its arrival. But it is taking it upon ourselves to express our attachment, our impatience, our hope. Likewise, everyone has had the experience of staying at the bedside of a loved one who is suffering or even dying. To be there, quite simply, without anything to say, without anything to do, except to say its proximity in a moment of trial or passage, when the forces of life and death clash. There is in every watch a part of passivity and gratuitousness of which our daily lives, marked by a concern for efficiency, are too often deprived. Christmas Eve can be an opportunity to experience it. We can even come out of it amazed.


► “Night prayer guides everything that follows”

Brother Jean-Marc Thevenet,Cistercian monk, former abbot of Acey (Jura)

“I have been a monk for fifty-five years and the night watch has always been precious to me. The semi-darkness and the silence make it a privileged moment of communion with God, far from the activities and requests of the day. This nocturnal prayer is often the strongest moment of our days: it guides everything that will follow.

Unlike the Carthusians who pray earlier in the night, we Cistercians meet for vigils at 4:15 am, with a relatively long night behind us. After this office, normally, we do not go back to bed. Everyone continues to meditate on the Word of God until around 7 a.m. This is when the day itself begins.

Of course, these daily vigils are not always an exhilarating moment, and we sometimes have to fight against sleep or headaches … But I believe that this asceticism, in the long term, bears fruit. Eve is at the heart of our monastic vocation. More broadly, every Christian is called to watch, that is to say to live in vigilance. At the same time, as Christ asks, “so as not to enter into temptation”, and because it is there, in the night, that God comes. The two major events that are the birth and the resurrection of Christ took place, according to the Gospels, in the middle of the night and without witnesses. The night is the symbol of a world which seems lost, without landmarks and without guide, but where light can shine.

For us, monks, the day before is also a reminder that we must pray without ceasing, for the distresses and the hopes of this world. Not only to pray but, little by little, to become prayer: this is the desire of the monk. Becoming a prayer means being in communion with God in the most permanent way possible. Even if God, we do not see him and we do not always feel him, far from it. “

Collected by Mélinée Le Priol


► “Ensuring the well-being of the crew is fundamental to remain efficient”

Yann Guichard, maxi-trimaran crew captain Sails of Change for the Spindrift sailing team

“When you set off at sea to beat the record for round-the-world sailing with a crew (1), the watch lasts 24 hours a day for forty days. We organize ourselves in shifts, that is to say that there is a permanent rotation between the members of the crew to know who should be on deck, who should be on stand-by and who can go to rest. .

This quasi-military organization is essential to remain efficient but also to ensure the safety of the ship and the crew. Every two hours, a pair of team members replace another so that there is never a break in the transmission of information essential to the piloting of the ship but also for group life.

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As responsible for the crew, I do not take part in the watches: my watch is more global. I have to listen to my teammates. Being in the middle of the ocean exacerbates all the difficulties and the slightest worry, like a small injury to the finger, which can get worse very quickly. I’m here to take care of others, because if the crew is bad, the whole boat is bad. Ensuring the well-being of the crew is fundamental to remain efficient.

A sailing round the world is a human adventure before being a sporting challenge. Even on a 37-meter boat like ours, living conditions are difficult at eleven. We have very little space, no heating or toilets. You have to constantly pay attention to each other. The notions of solidarity, mutual aid and listening which result from this monitoring are essential to take up this type of challenge. This role of watchman brings pleasure but also engenders a great responsibility. “

Collected by William Gazeau

(1) The ship and her eleven sailors are due to set off soon as part of
of the Jules-Verne trophy.


► With the “climate sentinels”

Maud Berroneau,herpetologist (1) for the Cistude Nature association

“For me, monitoring consists of going into the field, in different natural environments (wetlands, dune areas…) to study animal or plant species revealing the effects of climate change: viviparous or ocellate lizards, Iberian tree frogs… These“ sentinels du climat ”are protected species whose ecosystem and habitat are threatened by the drop in water levels, for example.

The lizards, small in size, stealthy, require careful progression. I walk through the vegetation. Take breaks. Try to tell them apart with binoculars or the naked eye. The counting of tree frogs is done at night. Sitting at the edge of the water, I listen to the males sing. To each his own musical intonation, which allows me to count them. In these moments, I measure my luck to experience this contact with nature. The years when the weather and humidity are good, I am relatively serene. In dry years, when the tree frogs do not or rarely sing, stress can take hold of me. But with, each time, this feeling of contributing to something important.

→ MAINTENANCE. “The day before is an availability”

From this monitoring, recommendations are born. Once the observation has been made, the most complicated thing is not to convince the actors concerned (agents of national parks, reserves, elected officials, etc.). It is to make them act, really. Because there are always obstacles: the economic development of the territory, when you are an elected official; the desire to overconsume, when you are an individual … My vigil is not for all that helpless or desperate. What pleases me is this role of whistleblower. Bearing witness to what others do not see. Watch to raise awareness. And remember that watching over nature also means watching over people. “

Collected by Alice Le Dréau

(1) specialist in reptiles and amphibians.


► “Allow works to spread throughout the night”

Alexandre Tharaud, pianist

“I wanted to shatter the very strict rites of the concert to encourage musicians and listeners to let go, to listen differently, by organizing concerts where the audience is lying in the dark, without knowing who is playing. what. We tend to intellectualize our approach to works, to judge them rather than to feel them. In this waking state favored by the darkness, the invisibility of the performers, the absence of a program (1), everything is no longer focused except on the music. Hence a kind of delicious dizziness and, for the listener, the pleasure of enjoying a sharp perception, in communion, also invisible, with that of others. This wakeful state opens up a path of availability where sleep can eventually seep in – but that’s okay.

→ MAINTENANCE. Alexandre Tharaud: “since I was 13, I haven’t had a Sunday anymore”

As a performer, I also experience different sensations from a concert where, while not even playing my own music, I am placed in the center of the stage, in the spotlight and the gaze of hundreds, if not thousands. pairs of eyes! In the dark, out of sight but aware of the depth of listening, I play more freely, totally sacrificing appearance in favor of the common vibration with the audience. Likewise, the absence of applause, during and at the end of these waking concerts, allows the works to spread through the night, well beyond the last note. Like a painting that would no longer have a frame and whose beauty would be perpetuated without limits.

For us, classical musicians who make the dead sing – Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Satie… – the day before gives access to the doors of another world. I like these intermediate dimensions, these intimate correspondences with a beyond that our societies tend to evacuate, as they evacuate death. “

Collected by Emmanuelle Giuliani

(1) The program and the names of the performers are not communicated to the public until the end of the concert.


“Bring a little human warmth”

Nicolas Clement, 68 years old, volunteer at Secours Catholique

“It has been twenty-eight years now that I have tried, on my scale, to watch over others. Since I retired, my various associative commitments occupy almost all of my days. With the Catholic Help, every Friday evening, I participate in the organization of a “street café”. We set up a small bar in Paris and we serve hot drinks to our beneficiaries. The goal is to make them forget the worries of everyday life by discussing everything and nothing.

One Friday a month, I also take part in the night tours. We move around Paris by going directly to meet homeless people, bringing them hot drinks and warmth. However, we reject the term “marauding”: marauders are thieves, thieves, the exact opposite of what we are. Special actions are also organized daily with the inhabitants of the slums. We go directly to meet them to try to improve their daily lives. In collaboration with other associations (Médecins du monde, L’École enchantiée), we are trying to support them on a social level.

Our actions have made it possible to help our beneficiaries – some have been able to find work, accommodation – but we do not suspect the impact they constantly have on ourselves. Coming from a wealthy background, I was able to meet people I would never have had the chance to meet without these associative commitments. We expect a priori to find depressed and depressed people, due to their very difficult economic situation. In fact, the moments we share with them are always very happy and memorable. The first step is never easy to take. It takes a lot of daring at the start. But I can only recommend trying to have such human experiences. “

Collected by Ayoub Simour


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