My mother, who was trained as a social worker, once told me that whenever any member of a group changes every relationship within the group must reinvent itself. I think of this idea often. Particularly during election season.
For the past few years, I have been serving on the Hartford Selectboard and at the moment, we have a particularly cohesive and functional body. Well, you wouldn’t have guessed it last night. First someone said something to question a path the board had taken, then someone else took offense at the remark, then I entered in and made things worse, and pretty soon, the congenial board environment that we had come to know and enjoy had been pretty well disrupted.
After reflecting on this sequence, I realized that what was going on might have had to do with selectboard anxiety about a potential outcome of the election, now less than a week away. Were we reacting to our subconscious fear of losing this particular group due to the will of the voters? Were we predisposed to be irritated at one another on grounds of not being dependable features in our lives? Were we bracing for a loss that will likely be processed without ceremony, observation or the slightest permission to grieve? It’s hard to imagine the such a grumpy and officious group of people would have these subterranean rumblings, but we sometimes fail to notice how important we are to one another.
Likewise, we sometimes miss the importance of that special amorphous entity that is the group. I often wonder if humans are not gradually evolving to make the entity of the group a increasingly important locus of activity. The Buddhist Monastic and Social Reformer, Thich Naht Hahn seemed to suggest that the importance of the communal entity is increasing when he said that the next incarnation of the Buddha may come as a community.
On the CTP Board, effectiveness is fostered in part through caring for the health and well being of the group. We recognize and tend to this collective mind with exercises that are for its benefit alone. Some are tried and true, like a moment of silence before a check in, others are experimental and involve song or movement or poetry. But all have the effect of bringing the group together for a productive meeting.
I have been thinking for years that these exercises and games should be codified into a two-day training. And this may someday happen. Perhaps someday, this approach to collective action will make it all the way to the Selectboard.
In the meantime, when you see your Selectboard getting on each others nerves in the days leading up to an election, you can know that they just might be reacting to losses of which they themselves are unaware.
Thanks for reading and for all you do and don’t forget to vote this Tuesday.