How Many Are You?

“How many are you?” A seemingly easy question, but one which has frequently drawn stunned looks when I ask it.

Often extended families present themselves at the ticket office to enter Østerlars church. An extended family includes various adults – grandparents, aunts and uncles – and a wide range of youngsters – siblings and cousins. Children under 10 don’t pay and they eagerly shout that they are free, “Det er gratis for mig!”. There is an adult price (20 kr.) and young people’s price (10 kr.). Therefore, the question of how many they are, and what type of tickets they need, is important, notwithstanding counting the number of people flowing into the church, checking that we remain within the maximum of 100.

When the befuddled look appears, I know that we are in for a challenging moment. Waves of indecisiveness and disorientation roll in as my interlocutor bravely attempts to assess the boisterous human cluster. It is as if, for the first time, they are considering the human collective that they are part of, and look upon it with astonishment and bewilderment. Others may chirp in adding their flavour to the already culminating confusion.

I am reminded of what a cognitive psychologist colleague once shared with me about people becoming irresponsive when in a group, because they rely on some amorphous we-ness to take decisions for them, and for things to happen smoothly and effectively. He illustrated this with a saucy story of the leadership team of a prominent university foolishly missing their train back home after a weekend spent building up team culture. The point here is that group illusion often reduces individual perspicacity, allowing much-needed singular voices to get lost in the joyous celebrations of being together.

My moments with flummoxed groups have brought back home my fear of asking a question which will stir up confusion, indecisiveness and all forms of vagueness, signposting inner incoherence reflected in uncohered groups and collectives. It makes me so sad when people, and by extension groups, don’t know who and what they are.

I have had plenty of opportunities to witness my deep sadness here. How much do I know of myself within these imprinted structures? Am I able to climb out of my attachment to such lower-vibrational energies? Am I able to release my attachment to the source of their affinity within me, such as the story of being the only adult in the room? Something becomes more porous when I allow myself to feel and recognise my desolation and, literally on my knees in the church, I can then weep for humanity and our lostness.