As leaves start to fall, look at the branches that remain. One large trunk divides into multiple branches, each one dividing again and again as it reaches toward the sky. This repeating pattern (or “fractal”), found in nature and mathematics, is a breathtaking source of inspiration. The tiniest shell’s spiral pattern, in perspective, resembles the swirl of the Milky Way.
I’ve often loved these comparison images – like the Ansel Adams photographs of small, angular rocks with similar-shaped mountains in the background. The small is related to the large.
So when I received a copy of “Emergent Strategy” by adrienne maree brown at a recent UUCF leadership retreat, the chapter on fractals really jumped out at me. In it, adrienne talks about what is needed for real change within society, within groups that want to support that change and within individuals who are in those groups.
Adrienne’s focus on looking at nature-based patterns really resonated with me. She writes, “What we practice at the small scale sets the patterns for the whole system.” And specifically for social action work, adrienne’s plea is for individuals to look at themselves first … “to see our own lives and work and relationships as a front line, a first place we can practice … alignment with each other.”
Stated beautifully, this message relates to the effort of Covenant Groups and Adult classes at UUCF. These times together – whether in the monthly spiritual discussion and relationship-building effort of Covenant Groups or in the variety of theme-focused Adult classes – are so important. They are times to simply be intentional about being together and connecting with each other. These connections will make us stronger as a congregation, but it’s bigger than that. Through these relationship-building journeys, we are practicing for starting a similar journey with our neighbors, co-workers, social action colleagues, on and on – a fractal pattern of connections.
I’m looking forward to a new congregational year of connections, and I’m thankful for the teams working to make these small groups possible.