by Reverend Wayne Walder
“All My Relations” is an expression of Native peoples. It means our family, both biological and chosen. It means our friends, near and far. It means those who have left this world, people we know, and people we would have liked to have known. It even means those who will come after us … they are “All My Relations”.
In this month it is fitting that we will have a service for Passover on April 10th, reminding us of past relations and their effect on us. Earth Day is being celebrated on the 17th, to remind us of the effects of our actions on future relations. We will have Rev. Victoria and the combined choirs of Neighbourhood and Hamilton Unitarian Universalist coming on the 24th; they are our religious family relations. And on the 3rd, I’ll explore how we might honour our relations without losing our identity while doing so.
There is a tension in all relationships, no matter how we define them. One part of this tension pulls us toward others; we are wired to be social, to help and be helped by others. We can share common stories to help us know who we are and where we have been. We can work together on projects that are too big for any of us to do alone.
On the other hand, our lives can move in a different direction from our relations. We might not want to conform to the authority of the group, when past conforming has hurt us. Sometimes we want to stay alone, even when this means doing without the love and support of our families. And we might want to give our care and concern to new friends and families, which might mean disappointing others. Combining community and individuality can be difficult.
Yet we know there is no way to live a life without both. We need community because community allows us to become ourselves, with public schools, community centres, sporting events, entertainment. Community cares for us when we cannot care for ourselves, with our health care system. Without community we cannot feed ourselves or provide for the common goods we use every day, with roads, utilities, food, meaning.
Community needs our individuality too. We each need to come up with ideas and practices others can use. We each need to develop new ways of offering love and care. We need to strengthen our individuality so we are strong enough to resist when our community makes poor choices. We need our individuality to help guide our community toward the common good.
Carl Jung, who encouraged everyone to become the best individual they could become, offered a wonderful reminder about this tension between community and individuality. He said we should develop our individuality but always remember the community which gave us space to do so. He said we have a debt to that community, a ransom to be paid for our individuality. We need to use our individual strength, love and ideas to re-create the community that made space for us. Then our growing community helps to create the common good for others.