Today is Ash Wednesday. Today a large portion of the Christian world dives into a Lent, a 40-day period of self-sacrifice and reflection that leads up to the holiest and happiest day in their calendar: Easter. I’m not a Christian, and I only barely practiced any form of Lent when I was, but there is definitely value in taking a time out of the year to reflect on your life and your relationship with the divine.
Yesterday, I came across this picture from the Unitarian Universalist church:
It suggests that UU’s take a picture of each of these themes once a day during the next 40 days and upload them to social media sites. I like the idea, but I’m not much of a photographer, so I decided to challenge myself to write about each of these topics for the next 40 days. I can’t promise a post a day, but I’m going to tackle each subject as close to that schedule as possible.
OK. Deep Breath. Here goes: Connection.
Maybe it’s because I just saw the show, but when I think of the word “connection,” these lines from the musical Rent come into my head:
What was it about that night?
Connection, in an isolating age
For once the shadows gave way to light
For once I didn’t disengage
This verse comes at a pivotal moment in the show when the main characters, Mark and Roger, have to decide to either run away from their problems or be true to themselves despite the pain that may cause. Both decide to turn around and follow their own paths: Mark gives up a lucrative job to make his own films and Roger returns to New York and his girlfriend Mimi, despite knowing that he is going to have to watch her die.
Rent takes place in the 90’s. Only the rich characters carry cell phones. Everyone else uses a – gasp! – pay phone. Things have changed. We live in a world that is constantly connected through the magic of Email, smartphones, and social media. But that’s deceptive. Studies have repeatedly shown that Facebook makes people depressed. We are over-wired, yet under-connected.
We need connection. Real connection. When we isolate ourselves, we may feed our own egos, but we don’t feed our souls. Psychology has shown that if we don’t surround ourselves with others, especially with those who disagree with us, we never get a chance to see ourselves through another’s lens. Without that, we don’t really know who we are. I’m a huge introvert, so I don’t always practice what I’m preaching here, but as humans we need to understand ourselves through our connections to others.
I think of the “Diamond of Divinity” model in Christopher Penczak’s book The Outer Temple of Witchcraft. The model depicts divinity as one large diamond with many facets. Some see the whole diamond, and therefore see one god. Some look at facets of the diamond, seeing pantheons and archetypes they can connect to. Others only look at one facet, focusing only on that one expression of divinity. Ultimately, though, they’re all connected in one big gem, and that gem is the ultimate description of the gods.
I think people are the same. The species as a whole is the big diamond. The various races, nationalities, and religions are sides of the diamond, and each person is a facet. You can’t look at one side or facet to understand the whole diamond, but you also can’t fully appreciate all of humanity if you’re not noticing the facets. It takes both views to understand us. We are separate, but we are also connected.
To understand yourself, a facet of the diamond, you must place yourself in the context of the human diamond. You also must appreciate your own unique differences, but you can only do that if you understand what the rest of the diamond looks life. Connection defines us. Without connection, we cannot be individuals. Without connection, like Mark and Roger, we can’t be true to ourselves.