Or imagine if all members of the suburb, town or village felt free to attend the funeral service and many did.
I know I would feel deeply touched and greatly supported if this were to happen where I live. It doesn't nor do I suppose does it happen where you live. But it does in Tonga, a little island, north-east of Australia.
Village/communal mourning is just one of the ways in which Tongans hold strong their sense of community. So is the communal and male only drinking of 'cava', a natural alkaloidal hypnotic narcotic extracted from the roots of the pepper plant.
In Tonga, males congregate for a ceremony where they are served this yellow-green extract by females who must not be related to them. Drunk from well-used coconut shells, the drink disposes them to a state of mild euphoria during which they launch into harmonies of uplifting songs.
I happened to see both of these traditional Tongan practices on the television this evening. I couldn't help feeling what masterful ways these were in keeping the bonds of community strong as well as engaging in safe social drinking. In the case of the latter, it seemed to me that drinking was undertaken not only for the pleasure of it but also for the purpose of reinforcing solidarity, kinship and male bonding.
I believe these interests did originally lie at the heart of most social drinking. However, it seems to me that, particularly in western societies, the importance of these interests has diminished, if not been lost completely, by a corresponding erosion of community living and community spirit/mindedness. It has certainly made me appreciate the value of these practices in cultures such as the Tongans and other Polynesians.
We are all longing to go home to some place we have never been — a place half-remembered and half-envisioned we can only catch glimpses of from time to time. Community. Somewhere, there are people to whom we can speak with passion without having the words catch in our throats. Somewhere a circle of hands will open to receive us, eyes will light up as we enter, voices will celebrate with us whenever we come into our own power. Community means strength that joins our strength to do the work that needs to be done. Arms to hold us when we falter. A circle of healing. A circle of friends. Someplace where we can be free.
Starhawk at http://www.wisdomquotes.com