Tuesday, September 14, 2010

In Memory of Mark Hingston


In this modern age of mass media and instant communication, we all have become a part of the “I” generation. The individual reigns supreme: the ultimate goal is to express our “true self.”  But what if this “sense of self” is not a concrete reality? What if this sense of  ‘I’ that feels so solid is only an illusion.” Instead, what if what we call “our self” is only a maze of shifting reflections, representing the sum total of our total life experience, dynamic and ever changing.

The Rig Veda, an ancient Hindu text, has a name for these reflections: Indra’s Net.

There is an endless net of threads throughout the universe…
At every crossing of the threads there is an individual.
And every individual is a crystal bead.
And every crystal bead reflects
not only the light from every
other crystal in the net
but also every other reflection
throughout the entire universe.

I was struck by this image yesterday, attending the funeral and reception for a long-time, special friend, Mark Hingston.  I was lucky enough to have had him work with me for several years when I was structural designer/stone mason.

Saying goodbye to Mark had a profound effect on me: Finding myself, once again, immersed in the wonderful, caring community of Mark’s friends of which I am no longer an integral part, and which until yesterday, I didn’t know how much I had missed.

I think many of us would agree that today we place too much emphasis on the individual and individual achievement/and or celebrity status.  It wasn’t always so, even in western society.

In the 19th century Europe, the emphasis was much more on the importance of the community. In fact, Emile Durkheim, prominent sociologist of that era, concluded that individuals can only transcend their mundane existence by connecting to the collective mind of society.

According to Durkheim, society contained a collective consciousness with “marvelous properties” beyond the capabilities of any individual.

This collective consciousness of a community is: “the result of an immense cooperation which stretches out not only into space but into time as well; to make them, a multitude of minds which have associated, united, and combined their ideas; for them, long generations have accumulated their experience and their knowledge...infinitely richer and complexer than that of the individual…It is only by tapping into these collective social realities that individuals can understand each other…


Whether we call it Indra’s Net or Durkheim’s collective consciousness, I was privileged enough to be able to tap into it yesterday, reconnecting to a community “infinitely richer and complexer” than I.  It was the perfect setting to remember Mark who embodied all the best virtues of his beloved community: kindness, compassion, loyalty, consideration for others, all combined with an extraordinary blend of humility and humor.
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