It takes a village to raise a child. So true. Perhaps it even takes a village to complete a human being, for without our villages, where and who would we be?
Our villages start small: mom, dad, siblings and then ripples out to the extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Our neighbors can be part of that village, certainly our classrooms, workplaces, spiritual spaces, the gym, even the local Starbucks can be part of the ever-widening circle of that protective and nurturing village.
Today we are creating villages on social media, following and being followed, and extending that village of ours to what once was not much beyond the perimeter of the tribe, the neighborhood, the village, to an entire global world thanks to technology.
Our villages have become expansive. Families that shared one large dwelling area or place, are now far flung to remote corners of the world. Gone now the individual who rarely leaves her small town for parts unknown. Our children go off to school hundreds and thousands of miles away, meet and marry others of different ethnicities and even embrace other lifestyles, cultures and religions. What a time we live in!
But that first village is oh so important. Therein our minds and souls are shaped. We continue the DNA pattern of previous generations, lineages and importantly family stories. We are socialized, perhaps even brainwashed, to acceptable behaviors and religious beliefs (or none), nationalism and how to interact with others of our kind. We also learn prejudice, bias and what sort of filters to use to understand our world.
I’ve recently been fascinated with the study of the Enneagram, an ancient, spiritual study represented as a geometric figure that maps out the nine fundamental personality types of human nature and their complex interrelationships. (ref. The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson) It provides great insight about our personalities: to understand them and those of others – how to act and more importantly react to others. One of the first questions asked of participants is to think back to those childhood messages that often set our life stage in how we navigate the world. Your village has had a lot of impact on who you are today. I remember my father as a family historian and story teller. Any wonder that I became one myself in later years.
My village in high school consisted of my fellow singers. We glided through peer pressure and the other difficult labyrinths of the age because we had our village codes and expectations to live by and responsibilities to the group – each person’s contribution necessary to the whole. We were protected and sheltered plus had goals and directions that were necessary to follow for the group’s survival and success in performance. A perfect village.
Our spiritual spaces are important villages. I know that as a convert from one faith to another, I would have been lost without working hard to integrate and assimilate myself into my new village where beliefs and practices were shared, plus offers of protection and nurturing. Many new converts to Islam face very difficult issues as they often become estranged or unaccepted by their first villages of home, family and religion communities, not realizing the work needed to be done to find that new village that will accept and nurture them. Not an easy task when this new village is comprised of people from all over the world. What binds these folks together is simply the faith, as cultures and languages can differ greatly.
Villages have great strength and appeal for most individuals. An interesting look at an extreme example of a village is the recent Netflix documentary on the lives of Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn, One of Us. Through the eyes of three Jews, it shows a very singular and close-knit village that follows a stringent code of behavior, dress, lifestyle, even language. This village so provides all that the individual could need and is so insular in its thinking, few seek to leave or find it very difficult to do so.
So, take a look around you. What are your villages, past and present? How have they shaped you, your character, your beliefs? Is your village a place of comfort and security or do you need to break free to find that village that will support and nurture you and your future?
Other articles you may be interested in:
- Different Generations: Can We Learn From Each Other? by Judy Hoberman
- The Courage to “Follow Your Bliss” by Kristin Kaufman
- The Importance of Being Self-Aware by Deni Abbie
- The Power of Your Mindset by Wendy Perry