The last we spoke Sunday Assembly was launching Retreat To The Future: a two day personal development and community building urban retreat. We designed the event in order to find a way that we could create and deepen relationships, in a way that brought us closer to our vision: to help everyone live life as fully as possible.
Over the next few months we’ll have some exciting news about where we are going with the Retreat To The Future and I wanted to share why the weekender was so exciting for us, why the experience was so transformational for participants and why the work Sunday Assembly is doing is so important.
The first story I want to tell is about real human connection.
Meet Your Representative
You spend most of your life presenting a version of yourself to the world.
Chris Rock got to the bottom of this when talking about relationships.
“Relationships, easy to get into, hard to maintain. Why are they so hard to maintain? Because it’s hard to keep up the lie! ‘Cause you get nobody being you. You got to lie to get somebody. You can’t get nobody looking like you look, acting like you act, sounding like you sound.
When you meet somebody for the first time, you’re not meeting them. You’re meeting their representative.’
Alain de Botton, the Chris Rock of philosophy, made the same point when he said the first questions two people on a date should ask is “How are you crazy?”.
You spend most of your life as your representative.
Your Representative Isn’t All Bad.
Jung called this representative ‘the persona’. In order to get through modern society it really, rly helps to have one.
Imagine if you didn’t.
Imagine saying every single thing that crossed your mind, eating whatever you wanted to eat whenever you wanted to eat, getting up at the time of your choosing. We couldn’t live with each other. Your rep makes sure that our cities aren’t nightmares of lootin’, stealin’, takin’ and non-stop donut eatin’.
There’s a downside. Jules Evans, in his book ‘The Art of Losing Control’* writes:
“the effort [to project this persona] comes at a great psychological cost – we feel cut off from our inner self, alienated, bored and unhappy, in a society which feels fake and artificial.
We’re terrified our mask will slip, yet we also yearn for deeper connection, catharsis, release, ecstasy.”
To be able to connect with other humans as you really are – as your crazy self, not your polished representative – is incredibly healing.
Taking the ‘Con’ from Connection
Andy Pakula, the excellent (secular) minister of New Unity Unitarian church in Stoke Newington, gave a wonderful talk at Sunday Assembly, explaining how connection was the key to people joining his congregational community.
It wasn’t great songs. Because in London you can see whichever artist you want.
It wasn’t great talks. Because in London there are always better lectures.
It wasn’t social connection. Because in London there are a million ways to make friends.
What New Unity, Sunday Assembly and good congregational communities offer is genuine human connection.
Not the water cooler connection of ‘Hey, how was your weekend?’.
Not the family reunion connection of ‘Last year I switched jobs and though the hours are bit longer, but the commute is shorter so….’.
Not even the going out with your mates connection of ‘Shut UP! He did NOT do that. And then what happened?’.
The genuine human connection of ‘This is me with all my flaws, my worries, my bad habits, my big dreams. This is me as I am at my worst and my best’.
At Retreat To The Future we were able to create the space for people to connect in this way. For people to share their crazy, and still be loved.
In Sunday Assembly communities across the world people are able to connect in that real, deep way.
The question I would ask you is: what other spaces do you have where you connect like that? Who do you connect with as you really are? And what spaces do you create in the world to let that connection happen?
Because those spaces have never been more important.
More To Come
I hope you, and your representative, liked this blogpost. Over the next few months I want to share more insights that we learnt from Retreat To The Future. What it taught us about building local communities, the importance of power ballads in personal growth, secular spirituality (if such a thing can exist) and how to create connection in a world that desperately needs it.
*Jules Evans’ book is excellent by the way. He released it today – give it a go!