“Community cannot for long feed on itself; it can only flourish with the coming of others from beyond, their unknown and undiscovered brothers.” - Howard Thurman
Who was Howard Thurman?
Known to be a prominent voice in the Civil Rights movement, Howard Thurman (1899-1981) was an author, educator, theologian, a predecessor to Martin Luther King Jr., a civil rights figure, and a son of a slave. He propagated and preached change by way of peace and non-violence. In listening to his first “Quests for Peace” sermon, in his measured and anthemic voice, he claimed peace as the “ultimate insistence that the destiny of mankind is good.” He advocated a sort of radical peace through the prism of war, claiming violence drives the spirit of men underground and crystallizes opposition. His work was, as he called it, a movement of the Spirit of God in the hearts of men that grants wisdom and courage to combat the spirit of the times, kindling a hope that inspires.2
A hope that inspires...
I tend to feel sonder often. A moment in which I observe the reality that strangers are living unique lives, have unique stories as I do. They have their own dreams and ambitions, their own pain and sorrows, their own routines and passions, and I, in that moment, become “an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.”3
To meet someone new or even have a zoom hangout with an old friend, reveals more and more who they are and what matters to them. The more they describe their current or past lived experiences, the more this feeling of sonder is satiated. I wonder if this feeling could be a portal to a transient dreamspace, an impermanent blip in the dimension beyond the self where we embody and experience the lived experiences of another.
In our third residency gathering, we engaged with this dreamspace via a counter mapping exercise. Counter mapping is a map-making method that memorializes story by way of weaving our experiences into the landscape and ties us to place.4 Prior to the third gathering, we were tasked to complete an environment examen, to observe and assess the history of our physical place while checking in with our physical and emotional reactions. For the counter mapping exercise, we had to select a few words that embodied our feelings and memory. We compiled these words and related images and then assigned a movement that encapsulated the feeling.
Taking the movements of a couple individuals, we performed them together simultaneously, experiencing the place of another, even though we were far apart. I remember feeling that I had entered into a deeper connectedness to this newfound community in that moment. Once the dance stopped, and our meeting ended, the portal closed. I remember appreciating the connection and the intimacy we fostered in those moments.
There is hope in the birth of community. There is in each of us, the capacity for connection and for mutual flourishing. As Howard Thurman says, “Community cannot for long feed on itself; it can only flourish with the coming of others from beyond, their unknown and undiscovered brothers.”1
- Thurman, H., Fluker, W. E., & Tumber, C. (1998). The Search in Identity. In A strange freedom: The best of Howard Thurman on religious experience and public life (p. 294). Boston, MA: Beacon Press.
- Collier, J. (Ed.). (1953, November 08). Quests for Peace #1. Retrieved February 01, 2021, from http://archives.bu.edu/web/howard-thurman/virtual-listening-room/detail?id=344204