Have you ever been in awe of a swirling mass of starlings that flow in a myriad of shapes as they perform an airborne ballet together? It is called a murmuration of starlings. Some other birds fly together in V-shaped formations, but starlings dance in a spinning and swirling flow together in the sky. Murmuration, meaning low and continuous sounds, comes from starling-wing music when as many as 10,000 birds synchronize their moves.
Traveling through the Great Plains—Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma—in one day I saw 9 different starling murmuration configurations. Each one was captivating in its beauty. Starlings fly in close relationship with their flock mates for protection from predators and for warming. What our world needs today is people murmuration–a flock of folks who get vaccines together to protect ourselves from the pandemic predator. Peaceful bodies, free from viruses, are not about politics; peaceful bodies are about survival.
Norwegian Johan Galtung is considered to be the father of peace and conflict studies. The 91 year-old sociologist has Ph.D. degrees in both mathematics and sociology. He founded the Peace Research Institute Oslo in 1959 and the Journal of Peace Research in 1964. What is Galtung’s idea of peace? Peace means there is a relation between 2 or more entities which includes people, nations, regions, or civilizations.
If you think about it, relational interactions are everywhere you may look. Some relational interactions are peaceful; others are conflictual. Galtung considers how our social interactions have evolved from “primitive” times (hunters and gatherers) to agricultural societies to the modern industrial world. Relations shifted, becoming more hierarchical and even impersonal, as these changes occurred.
We are missing out if we do not care about the personal best from each person. We need each person’s flow in the flock. “Flow” is a concept proposed by Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. In his book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, a sense of flow is defined as a presence, a state in which you are so involved in some activity that you are entirely focused. One might assume that health and survival would be good focus options. Flow activities do not have to involve a competition or a masterful piece of art, although these experiences do involve a flow mentality. Csikszentmihalyi’s research found that a person’s skill can develop best when they reach an intersection between their skill level and challenge. A sense of flow can be a struggle, as challenges often are difficult.
What might happen to the strength of countries if we engaged in peaceful dialogues about our conflicts? Is your flow tank full? It is a possibility that we could be a people of murmuration, flowing together to resolve the weighty issues of life.
Pearls of Peace (PoP) Quiz:
38. When have you felt a sense of flow in your life?
39. What dialogues might you have with another that could move both of you in positive directions?