I have spent the few months considering the connections between people. Discovering that my own growth and development is inextricably linked to my relationships with others was something of a shock.
This wasn’t some nice theory I had read but emerged from very clear life experience, and once I had seen it, I couldn’t help but look back at all that had gone before and recognise the truth. I am who I am today far more because of the web of relationships that have framed my life more than anything else.
The question which has been tugging at me – What if the idea of the autonomous individual is a myth?
The final nail in the coffin of my faith in individualism occurred about a month ago as I listened to Mary Evelyn Tucker describe the ecological state of the world. Alongside her words I had swimming in my mind pictures of Syrian refugees and the dawning recognition that Brexit had actually happened. The ideal of the ‘self-made man’ pulling himself up by his bootstraps is at best joke and at worst a cruel impossibility held up to the poor as a shaming spectre.
As I sat in a hotel ballroom filled with 500 people all signed up for a course in mysticism I found myself toying with the idea that either we are all transformed or none of us will make it. Either we all choose to participate or humanity will kill itself off along with a huge swathe of the current diversity of life.
We are in a new phase of violent protests at South African higher education institutions. My social media feed is filled with anger and outrage on all fronts. Over and over, different groupings believing another group is the source of the problem wanting to get rid of them. And over and over, I can’t help but think that if we don’t find a way which truly makes room for everyone then we are all sunk.
I have no idea where the answer lies. But I hope that this current outflowing of anger is in fact a step forwards. We can’t move forward together if we don’t face into the real pain at the heart of our society.
For now I sit and watch and grieve. I grieve for the ocean of trauma that has flooded this country from generation through generation. I grieve for both the perpetrators and the victims of violence. I grieve for those who sit smugly saying ‘I told you so’.
I don’t know where the answer lies but I am becoming more and more convinced that if we are to find one at all, we will all need the courage to sit with the pain.