For the last instalment of this exploration of “Community Heroes,” I want to propose the notion of “constellation” as a tool for recognizing and developing connection with our humanity.
When the ancients looked up at the night sky, a basic component of sentience came into play. A defining feature of our sentient humanity is our propensity to find (or impose) pattern in the world around us. It’s driven by an intense desire to “make sense” of what are sometimes chaotic or apparently meaningless events or structures in our lives.
The night sky, with its complex and chaotic array of stars and other celestial bodies, was a fertile field for this “patterning” exercise. Connecting random dots to imagine centaurs, water bearers or scorpions was a way to illustrate the myths and legends we employed to explain natural phenomena and shared experience.
I believe there’s a similar mental exercise at work when we attempt to perceive organized groupings among the complex and chaotic array of persons around us. Beyond the binary “us and them” approach to “the other” is a bright web of interconnections that help us make sense of the world around us and the social constructs that we must navigate on a daily basis. Each of us is a shining star and the constellations of which we perceive ourselves to be a part are many and varied. We are part of families, extended families, chosen families, teams, cultural groupings, and a variety of other connective assemblies.
The stories we tell ourselves and each other about how the dots are connected form an important part of our identities. The narrative thread that “people like us” do “things like this” is a reassuring bulwark against a seemingly uncaring universe. The terrifying “unknowing” beyond the security of the tribe’s shared campfire is kept at bay by the sense of solidarity and defensive connection we cultivate through our repetition of cultural memes.
In the context of the current conversation, these constructed social groupings help us to maintain our individual identities while simultaneously buttressing our communities against chaos and our innate profound aloneness.
There really ARE monsters under the bed but we feel safer if we’re not sleeping alone.
In order to maintain our mental and emotional health, it benefits us to explore and understand how these constellations are formed. At the risk of stretching the metaphor, we move in social orbits like planetary systems, with certain core concepts at the centre, binding us to them and keeping us from spinning off into the void on our own.
Beyond our immediate “planetary” connections are the stellar neighbourhoods with which our core concepts connect. Those stellar neighbourhoods, in turn, orbit in grand assemblies around the arms of a galaxy. Like a cosmic ballet, our lives whirl and leap and dance as we move through our days.
Beyond the pas de deux is the pas de grand nombre; more than a dance with two dancers is the dance of many.
Our lives are often a challenging struggle between our solitary experience, triggering feelings of aloneness, and the connection we crave that will reassure us that we matter, that we are NOT alone, that there IS a purpose to existence. So many of our most dysfunctional behaviours are simply a kind of temporary blindness that keeps us locked inside our heads, disallowing the interconnections that is our birthright. It’s how we’re made. It’s what we’re for.
Find your tribe. Embrace your connections. Identify your constellations.
Learn the stories and repeat them to yourself and others. Know that we are, all of us, engaged in the most wondrous creative dance, if only we would allow ourselves to feel it.