Edition #64: Weaving Webs and Turning Over Stones
Creating The Webbd Wheel: Outsiders and Insiders
Now, in Beltane, we begin an increasing shift from individual stories to points of view within interwoven communities. The women go first, meeting one another and connecting. In the richness of healthy community we become more than ourselves. We access more strength, more knowing, more intuition, and more wisdom. Our empathy and compassion enlarge. Our vulnerability and honesty bind us together. Healthy communities build power-sharing organizational structures.
Human beings have a social need for one another, but in some this need becomes distorted and toxic. Such people seek to form and control their own communities, or infiltrate and destroy healthy established groups for the purpose of bringing them under their own dark wing. In other words, hostile takeovers.
Isolation is a terrible thing, a dangerous, dark, destructive thing. Our fear of being shunned and cast out is immense. We’ll do almost anything to avoid it. Cult leaders and other predators take full advantage of our fear, even leading followers to death to satisfy their need for power. These too are communities, but unhealthy ones based in violence and control. The binding ties are not authenticity, but lies and manipulations. Unhealthy communities have a power structure demanding absolute unquestioning compliance and obedience.
A community implies outsiders. Healthy communities can mingle, exchange resources and ideas, and maintain fluid boundaries. Unhealthy communities come from a noncooperative, power-over stance. If you’re not for them, you’re against them. They’re aggressive and violent.
Then there are the outliers: the hermits, the solitary ascetics and mystics, the wandering fools, the lonely elders, and those who are accepted nowhere because of superstition or some physical or mental characteristic. Often, healthy communities assimilate such people in productive ways, but not always. To be alone is to be at risk.
In this post we meet Bruno, a predator who threatens a small group of women who are weaving their lives together. We do not see him in the context of any kind of community. He appears as a perpetual outsider, looking in, lusting, wanting, feeding his anger and bitterness. He lurks, waiting for an opportunity to take what he believes is rightfully his.
Human beings have a deep need and longing for a place of social belonging. The anguish and fear of being an outsider or an outcast makes us forget that healthy social connection, while essential to us, brings with it conflict and negotiation. Connection with others requires good communication skills and patience, along with the willingness to cooperate, contribute, and take responsibility. The pattern of a healthy community includes friction and tension. The web is sticky. Resilience must be present.
When we’re lonely, all we can feel is terrible emptiness and our hungry eyes are blind to all but the apparent perfection of connection around us, whether it be between romantic partners, within a family, within a church, at work, or elsewhere. Our most beloved television shows and books are about community: Cheers, M*A*S*H, Friends, Grey’s Anatomy, The Magicians, Harry Potter.
One day, while living in a small town in Colorado, I watched a friend and her husband stroll down the street toward me. They were both tall, lean, striking-looking people, casually bohemian. He had an arm slung around her shoulders. Her arm was about his waist. They were laughing and talking together, vaguely disheveled, slightly stoned. It was like being in a rom-com. I’m not normally an envious person, but they were so beautiful together I could have fallen to my knees and wept in my longing for what they apparently had. For a moment I forgot entirely the fact that she had for months believed he was having a workplace affair, only to find out he was in fact a compulsive gambler and bankrupting their business. Not very long after that day they divorced – bitterly. The last I knew he was still gambling and close to homelessness. She had mental health problems.
I was still a romantic in those days. Older and wiser now, as well as much less lonely, I enjoy a great romantic fantasy, but I’m clear it is fantasy. Real community is often not reflected in our media, and we as a culture have an increasing problem with identifying real from false. In fact, the current fashion is to ignore reality altogether in the name of equality and compassion, a trend taking us in disturbing directions which increase inequality and bigotry rather than level the playing field.
Turning Over Stones
My strongest community is at work. Where is yours?
What communities have you been cast out of?
How have you compromised your own integrity out of fear of losing community and connection?
What’s your favorite media or creative portrayal of community?
Leave a comment below!