I remember lying on my back in the high, cold desert of Nevada looking at the stars floating in the void. Everything felt far away. The stars are strewn in an emptiness so vast and deep I could only see them as they once were, their light taking years to get here. Even the planets in our own solar system, our fellow travelers, appeared no more than candy dots. The salt crust of the desert may have felt solid but we are no different from any other planet, floating idly in the void. Loneliness stalks the universe.
It is easy to feel separate; to look in the sky and feel the distance; to look across the street and feel distant.
Yet no matter the distance the stars and the planets are engaged in a cosmic dance. They pull on one another, spin around one another, determine their paths through space simply by their proximity to one another. As far as the universe goes we are quite literally all in this together.
The same is true of our social world. We are all engaged in a human dance spinning around one another, our paths determined by those closest to us.
In my work with US Army soldiers returning from the war I have discovered many of them feel much like I did in the desert, cold, distant, acutely aware of feeling separate. To help our soldiers reintegrate we need to help them step back into the human dance. We need to help them reconnect to one another. It is not about creating individual resilience, it is about how resilience is woven into us by our community.
As it is for all of us. We Americans, the great individualists of the modern world, believe the hero’s journey is something we take alone. But that is no more true than the idea that any one star sits alone, unaffected by the gravity of any other star. We take the hero’s journey with our community, whether it is with one other friend or an entire town.
We may no longer call Pluto a planet but that doesn’t change the fact that it is still engaged in dancing around the sun with the rest of us. Looking up into that vaulted emptiness in Nevada I stood up, took my sweetheart’s hand, and we started to dance. Connection also fills the universe.