Group Think — It Doesn’t Necessarily Involve Thinking At All

I’m a knitter.

This is a fairly solitary occupation, in that you don’t need to be part of a team to do it, and it’s fairly doable to get good at this without classes, seminars, workbooks, DVDs, and weekly meetings.

We’re such social creatures. The first thing we think about, when we start a new interest, is finding a group of others to do it with. Photo credit Steve Henderson

And I am fairly good at it; I make what I create, and have developed a respectable wardrobe of sweaters, socks, lace shawls, hats, and scarves, all because I knit on a regular basis and I continuously challenge myself to learn new things.

Despite this sensible attitude, I underwent a moment of insanity when I considered joining a knitter’s association and subjecting myself to a series of steps and lessons and requirements, all with the goal of earning a piece of paper announcing to the word that, according to this group, I am a qualified knitter.

What kind of job I can get with this piece of paper, I don’t know. Theoretically, I am supposed to come out of the experience more skilled than I am now, but I think the process would drive me nuts, since involves knitting 3 x 3 inch squares — absolutely PERFECTLY — in various patterns, and sending them to distant reviewers who pass or fail me based upon that perfection. I cannot wear 3 x 3 inch squares.

Some people — perfectionists come to mind — thrive on this type of thing, but I don’t. Which made me — and especially the Norwegian Artist — wonder why I was considering the experience at all.

Knitting is a fairly solitary, contemplative occupation. Riverside Muse, original watercolor by Steve Henderson

“You hate groups like this,” he reasoned. “Why are you even contemplating putting yourself through the process?”

“I don’t know,” I replied. “Maybe because I’m fooling myself into thinking that the group will enable me to advance, even though I’m advancing just fine all on my own.”

I’m not the only one with this misconception. It’s pretty universal that, when we acquire an interest — in knitting, cooking, walking dogs, making compost, brewing Kombucha, anything — we eventually look for a group to join. And a magazine to subscribe to.

“The more skilled members will teach me,” we reason. “That’s why the group exists.”

Actually, most groups exist for the group itself — for the regular meetings, the newsletters, the dues, the advancement process from one level to the next. In years past, we have belonged to art associations, 4-H, religious organizations, educational groups, non-profit establishments — and rarely have we received more than we put in.

Generally, the less organized the group, the more we have benefited from it. A hodge-podge of people, interacting on a basis of equality because they are more interested in each other and their common interest than they are in the organization they have created, is a worthy, workable endeavor. But this isn’t what most groups look like.

While this grumpy, anti-social attitude flies against society’s injunction to “work together as a team,” the one significant, workable example of teamwork that has existed since the beginning is one that society is regularly set out to destroy: the family. It seeks to replace it with substitutes: our “family” at work, our “family” at church, our “family” at school, our “family” anyplace at all other than our home.

Our homes and hearts are big enough to invite others in. Captain’s House, sold, by Steve Henderson

And although yes, it’s true that some people’s families aren’t of the quality that they should be, this is no excuse to eliminate the institution and replace it with substitutes. Better that we invite someone with no family into our own than that we push all of ourselves into artificial groups.

Do you knit? Write me, we’ll swap stories. It’s highly likely you can figure out what’s challenging you on your own, or, if it’s really bad, by finding another knitter who can walk you through it. But a weekly meeting, or monthly dues, or a yearly seminar isn’t going to push you through to learning as much as you yourself will do — because you’re smart, creative, independent and able to do so much more than you think you can.

Please feel free to click on the artwork photos to view the work on the Steve Henderson Fine Art website. We sell original paintings, signed limited edition prints, and inspirational posters so that fine art can be affordable to everyone.


4 Responses

  1. I’m a knitter. But knitting is something I do, not something I talk about, and if I get together with a friend to knit, I want to be able to talk about the things that pertain to eternity. I went to a knitting group once and didn’t feel any more at home than if I were at an auto show. I do have a blog which was started to promote my knitted goods and patterns, but I much prefer to post poems and essays on things that strike my heart.

    1. We once had a loose knitting group of 3-4 people, but most of the people didn’t knit until we had a group meeting, which meant that they never progressed in what they were doing. It took one person 18 months to finish a hat.

      So I knit on my own, or in waiting rooms, or on buses, or out on the porch, and it’s something my hands do while my mind moves along. The beauty of knitting is that you can do it anytime, anyplace (unless you’re actually driving a car), and you get better at it the more that you do it. And you get to wear what you make!

      As I type this, I’m wearing an alpaca sweater of loops and cables that hugs tightly and keeps me warm and happy!

      I wish you the best, Nita, in your knitting and writing endeavors — may they bring you, and others, much joy! — Carolyn

  2. Katie Homemaker

    I love being a part of a group of like-minded people, and love to create things, grow things, nuture, etc…but I feel it’s important to realize why we are getting together, and it’s because we want to BE TOGETHER! the knitting, composting, gym-time for our children(homeschool) is secondary. We need each other and I am not too proud to admit it! I too knit, but am just now moving beyond dishcloths-probably couldn’t do it if I were in a room eating and drinking coffee and laughing with other women!

    1. Hello, Katie — I, too, enjoy being a part of a group when we are meeting as equals, and every voice is one of value. The knitting group you describe sounds like this, and I remember “play dates” with other mothers and our children — and as long as one mother and her (usually spoiled and unlikable child) didn’t dominate, it was a delightful time indeed.

      These are good groups. The other ones — in which one or more persons sets himself/herself up as the satellite leader around whom the rest are expected to orbit — are a polar oppposite of the good groups.

      Keep up with the knitting! And those dish cloths aren’t as easy as you think they are — it’s not easy to make a perfect square and keep it that way.

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