“It doesn’t matter whether you talk to people who work in social justice mental health and abuse and neglect, what we know is that connection, the ability to feel connected, is — neurobiologically … how we’re wired — it’s why we’re here.”
— Brené Brown, in the TED talk, The Power of Vulnerability
“…[the] Aboriginal perspective … reflects the view that survival is dependent upon respectful and spiritual relationships with oneself, other people, and the natural world …”
—The Common Curriculum Framework for Aboriginal Language and Culture Programs, Alberta Education
“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., in his Christmas sermon in 1967
The notion of connectedness has been wandering through my consciousness for several years now, beginning around the time that I was trying to figure out how to mend what I perceived as holes in the garment of my own destiny. My life felt like a quilt, a patchwork of hand-me-down fabric loosely sewn together with a variety of strings and yarn. It was familiar in places, worn in ways that had the history of family and friends woven in. In other places, newly discovered, bright patches were layered on top, wondering whether or not they were covering up (or revealing) true parts of myself.
It did the job, but it didn’t wrap me up and create a feeling of contentment and joy that that proper blanket should.
My mother patch was stretched and frayed. My leader patch seemed to almost glow, when it wasn’t flickering and fizzling out. My teacher patch was wound so tightly that it couldn’t connect to the other patches. The patch that represented me as wife was a little busy holding the other parts together. As a whole, my quilt seemed … disconnected.
In creating my quilt I invested so much energy attempting to perfect each patch that none of them seemed good enough or truly complete. I yearned to be able weave a beautiful quilt that represented the parts of my being that mattered most – a wife, mother, teacher, leader, friend, daughter, sister. A whole person made with care and joy.
But it was overwhelming. It didn’t seem possible.
Except it was.
Just not all at once.
I’m starting to realize that if I practise just a little bit of patience and focus on one aspect, opportunities to improve the other aspects reveal themselves. But this is where the quilt analogy takes an unexpected turn. In making small changes in one patch, the others, seemingly on their own, straighten their stitches, loosen their weave, and appear to knit together as one, without my having to attend to them directly.
Now Martin Luther King Junior and Brené Brown spoke about people being able to affect each other’s destiny because of our inherent connectedness, and I believe deeply that this true. But what I love about the quotation from an indigenous perspective is the notion of connection within ourselves, and with animals, nature and the universe. It’s a holistic philosophy of relatedness.
All aspects of our universe are intricately woven together, and the notion is supported by science, too. In physics, the term is entanglement, the name I’ve chosen to represent my blog:
The Art of Entanglement
I came across the term while completing the first year of my Master’s of Education, which focuses on Collaborative Creativity and Design Thinking for Innovation (another bunch of things that are intricately connected).
I found it in Peter Gloor’s book, Swarm Leadership and the Collective Mind: Using Collaborative Innovation Networks to Build a Better Business. He first explains it in terms of quantum physics:
“ … if two geographically separated particles are entangled, [and] one particle changes, for example, its spin angle, the other will change in the same way at the same time, independent of location” (p. 7).
Crazy. How do those little particles know what to do?!?
Gloor further explains:
“…one particle of an entangled pair ‘knows’ what action has been performed on the other, even though there is no known means for such information to be communicated between particles, which may be separated by large distances. The same happens between two connected people, for example, between mother and child, or between spouses” (p. 62).
For me, it’s the way changing jobs changed my behaviour at home (There’s probably a blog post from the POV of my husband here somewhere). Or the way that investing more time with my family increased appreciation of my job. Or the way that finally starting this blog post relieved enough of my stress to allow my back to finally release. This will save me a trip to the chiropractor!
Perhaps you’ve noticed this phenomenon, too.
For a long time, Western medicine didn’t fully acknowledge the mind, body, spirit connection; however, it is now commonly understood that physical exercise and meditation can support our mental health.
Or, consider the way conversations with a challenging person seem to go much more smoothly once you adjust your thinking about that person. They don’t know your thoughts, but they are certainly affected by them.
What about that old advice given to new mothers: Feed yourself first, or you can’t feed your baby. Baby doesn’t know you’ve eaten, but she certainly benefits if you do!
There is no getting away from it: our lives are interconnected; everything we do and all of the choices we make affect other aspects of our lives, the lives of the people around us, and the environment in which we live. Gloor (and many others) describe this as collective consciousness: “…the individual ability to recognize oneself as part of a collective identity” (p. 52).
Knowing this has the potential to add much anxiety and pressure to our lives, but I don’t see it that way.
Entanglement offers us the opportunity to make small changes, knowing that each has far-reaching impact. Rather than looking at the quilt of our destiny as a daunting whole, I have confidence in knowing that the small changes I am making are supporting the whole. It’s also an understanding that, rather than dwelling on the parts that don’t fit, I can instead focus on the parts that I love and trust that making changes in one place will impact the rest.
And focusing on growing love, joy, and passion, instead of fixing hate, frustration, and stress has already affected my outlook and how I entangle with myself, my family, and my work.
Intuitively, I’ve always known the power of connection; however, exploring the theory of entanglement has given me the gift of attention. I can bring awareness and love to little parts of me and watch them weave their magic into all parts of me – my family, my friendships, my work, my learning, and my life as a whole.
These are the notions that have converged and led me to the blog you see before you, and my intentions are two-fold.
In life, I want to be of service. I want to serve people and help them bring happiness and gratification to their world. This blog is no different.
My hope is that my discoveries can help others create an entangled life, whatever that looks for them. Let’s be honest. We can’t do this alone, and we need to disrupt this narrative that our society commonly promotes: Pull up your bootstraps. Fix your life. Stop relying on other people.
The notion of individualism is not necessary or even natural. As my opening quotations suggest, human beings are social, connected beings, and we would do well to accept this inherent truth and lean into entanglement, rather than rally against it.
I also want to serve myself, and the theory of entanglement would support the notion that when I’ve got a few more things figured out, I will be of better service to others. As my husband is oft heard saying, “When my wife is in pain, I’m in pain.” Of course this is his funny way of making my well-being about him, but in truth, it is. Obviously, the opposite is true as well. In this way, my blog offers me the opportunity to explore, deepen, challenge my thoughts about my world.
- How will I embrace the challenges that entanglement presents?
- What does an entangled life really look like?
- What or who are the best examples of entanglement?
- Is an entangled life really worth it?
- How does personal reflection that fosters connections with others affect my efforts to build an entangled life?
I’ve decided to share my stories of success and struggle, connection and division, work and play, family and friends, leadership and learning in the hopes that we can all take small steps that lead us closer to a life filled with passion, fulfillment, and love.
This is not to say that I’m an authority, that my quilted life is somehow more complete or more artfully woven than yours. It’s just that in sharing the story of my creation, I remind myself that we are all creating, and we don’t have to do it alone.
Let’s get entangled. Together.