I learned about rhizomes in church on Sunday morning. They are plants that propagate via an underground stem. Buds at the joints send out new shoots, and make new connections with other shoots. Rhizomes create quite a mess as they intertwine and grow madly off in all directions. A rhizome has been used as a metaphor by two theorists Deleuze and Gauttari who say it best describes a sprawling, unhierarchical system of connections. It is the direct opposite of the tree and root metaphor which can pin point the start of something and track its upward and linear growth.
The six degrees of separation idea is an example of a rhizome. Everyone is really only six connections away from any other person in the world. All humans are connected in some way.The internet is another example of a rhizome. You start searching for something, which leads you to something else, and then something else, and eventually perhaps back to where you started, but perhaps to something completely new you never expected when you first began your search. The speaker in church was using the rhizome metaphor to describe the pattern of the Mennonite Church’s growth worldwide.
I liked the rhizome metaphor and couldn’t get it out of my head all day yesterday or this morning on my walk.
Just for fun I decided to put my Sunday under a rhizomatic microscope, looking for as many connections as possible in everything we did and everyone we met. We were visiting Fort Garry Fellowship on Sunday. We are in the process of ‘shopping’ for a new church home since moving to Winnipeg from Hong Kong. Our connection to Fort Garry Fellowship stems from the fact that my parents and two of my siblings and their families attend church there.
The speaker who introduced us to rhizomes was a Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) professor named Gordon Zerbe. I don’t really know him but connections abound. My husband Dave and I are CMU alumnus. Gordon was one of our son Joel’s favorite professors when he was at CMU. Gordon’s wife Wendy has written an article about the Hopi Indian Reservation in Arizona, where we lived for a year. A woman who attended my church in Hong Kong had studied at a seminary in the Philippines where Gordon was a teacher for a time. My sister and her husband visited the Zerbes when they lived in the Philippines.
After the church service I found lots of people in the congregation I had connections with. I talked with Connie, who I’d worked with on a writing project in the past. She is an aunt to four of my cousins, but not my aunt. I talked to Marge who used to be my neighbor, whose husband played baseball with mine, and who I’ve been friends with for more than thirty years. I talked to Deb who was a high school chum. I talked to Henry who has read lots of my articles and columns.
We went out for lunch with Matthew O Young who was our student at International Christian School (ICS) in Hong Kong and now happens to be studying Criminal Justice at the University of Manitoba. I had connected with Matt when he was a student in two of my ICS English classes and Dave was his basketball coach.
In the afternoon we went for a walk to the St. Boniface home where the fashion company Voila is headquartered. I had bought a pair of pants there several weeks ago that needed to be hemmed. Now they were ready and I had to pick them up. I heard about Voila fashions through my future daughter-in-law Alisa who is friends with the Voila designer Andreanne Dandeneau. Alisa got to know Andreanne because her sister is friends with one of Alisa’s friends.
In the evening Dave and I started watching the TV series Friday Night Lights. We are watching it on the recommendation of our son Bucky and his fiancée Alisa. They loved it and thought we would too. They were right. After three episodes we are hooked on this high school football drama. We’ve borrowed the complete DVD sets of all the seasons of the show from Eric Sung. We are connected to Eric because we are friends with his parents, he is a childhood friend of our son Bucky and he stayed with us for two weeks this spring in our Hong Kong apartment.
These are just a few of the rhizome experiences in my Sunday. How we live our lives and pass the days of our lives are the result of all kinds of connections. Interesting lives are ever growing, constantly connecting rhizomes. What next? Well you never know where the next connection in the rhizome will take you.
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