In the world of Marvel comics, Hydra is a formidable evil force with a chilling mantra: ‘if you cut off one head, 50 more spring up’. Those of you with myth knowledge also know that this theme originates with the story of Hercules’ second labor, which was to kill the Lernean Hydra. The hydra was a terribly troublesome serpent with nine heads and poisonous venom. When Hercules would cut one head off, two more would spring up in its place. The myth tells us that Hercules succeeds in this labor mostly because he and his nephew teamed up to strategically quell the incipience of a new set of heads forming when one was destroyed. In the Marvel world, the Avengers and Inhumans team up to conquer Hydra and it’s not at all easy.
Why am I starting this blog with such an allegory?
I’m contemplating how strong, healthy communities are defined and what they ‘look and feel’ like. What brings them together and what tears them apart? There are lots of examples for me to contemplate, some to which I am closely related. As an introvert, being a part of a community can be exhausting and exhilirating, each end of that spectrum generating a different kind of anxiety for me. I have learned that I have to be careful about what communities I associate with and the learning has left some scars. All which are healed hurts.
I would like to turn the Hydra allegory on it’s head a little bit. What if, instead of being a force of evil, a force of good was designed to be like a Hydra? I would also like, for a moment, to encourage the reader to see the serpent as a multi-colored being.
Is a strong community leaderless? Yes and no. A strong community has within its midst many people with leadership skills of varying degrees. How those strengths are deployed and honored makes the difference between a strong community and a weak community. Maybe you have been involved in something where several good leaders end up fighting each other for power or control. The best leaders practice servant based leadership and know when to let others take the reigns. The best leaders know how to recognize their ego traps and work hard to not fall in – they also do a great job of recovering when they have stumbled into the ego trap. Apply the inverted Hydra idea to strong communities….not necessarily leaderless….but leaders in waiting. ???
Are communities exclusive? Many hands make light work – so why exclude? To my mind, a healthy community is inclusive and creates space for the diversity of thought. I know that this is easier said than done. See Paragraph above and refer to ego problems. An amalgamated and diverse community is better than a homogenous community. Maybe we should walk away from the word community. Would we call ourselves a union? A biosphere? A family? Redefine the word so that inclusivity has meaning and power and is not just an empty phrase.
Is a strong community one in which people understand their rights and responsibilities as sovereign beings? Loaded question. How many people even know anymore what it means to be a sovereign? Are strong communities more forgiving than punitive when wrongs are done? What are the road rules for a strong community?
What are the different roles that support a healthy community? I was having a conversation with a friend where we were discussing some traditional roles in ancient communities. She, being of Irish descent, was telling me about some of the traditional ways that Irish communities mourn. I love when she shares her knowledge with me. My life is enriched in the hearing. She educated me on the role of the keening woman. Fascinating and beautiful, the need and fulfillment of that role in community healing made so much sense to me.
That conversation brought up a sort of epiphany for me and I’ll try to explain it in a way that makes sense to those who do not live inside my head. Our compulsion, as an ‘evolved’ ‘modern’ society, to walk away from ritual and tradition has left us lost. This so-called modern society we live in creates an atmosphere where we forsake the meaning and measure of ritual. Now, very few people are really clear about what their exact roles are in society. So many of us have forgotten that those traditional roles were assigned both because of family lineage and also because of the gifts that were inherent to the individual. The gifts made one unique. Ritual and tradition kept the ties to the community strong.
If we are to have strong communities that are impervious to the effects of greed, deceit, chicanery and delusion – if we are to become that good Hydra – we must remember who we are in relation to our community. We must be willing to acknowledge the many and varied purposes that we all serve. We must look around and ask – who are our keening women? Do they know that they have this role and responsibility? What is the need in the community? We need more than just leaders and advisers.
More to come. This is enough for now.