I went looking, but I couldn’t find the paper I wrote in college called, “Migrant Farm Workers and Wandering Jews,” comparing the lives represented in Tomas Rivera’s The Searchers with the Jewish people scattered across the globe. Like the dispersed Jews, the migrant farm workers share a faith and a history, a mindset that connects them beyond the miles.
I found a nice succinct definition of the collective unconscious on answers.com.
“In Jungian psychology, a part of the unconscious mind, shared by a society, a people, or all humankind, that is the product of ancestral experience and contains such concepts as science, religion, and morality.”
Kurt Vonnegut also had a bit to say about collective mindsets and both the reality and the illusion of being connected. In Cat’s Cradle, he first introduces the “granfalloon” to his readers, this illusion that just because we have this one thing in common, doesn’t mean I should like you – “My God, are you a Hoosier?… I’m a Hoosier, too.” But in Breakfast of Champions, he pays a little more honor to things that connect people on a deeper level. (I’m not sure how well Bruce Willis captured it, so read the book if you haven’t already, but not before Cat’s Cradle because that would just be the wrong order.)
Having been raised Catholic, I noticed at some point in my life that being a Catholic is a bit of a granfalloon, especially if you’re on the fence about the whole thing. Earlier in life, when I would run across other Catholics, they’d act like we were a little more deeply connected than I would have liked. “Oh, you’re a Catholic? Come sit next to me.” (It’s even worse when someone thinks that just because we’re both white, we should be buds.)
Then again, when I meet other former Catholics, I do feel an instant connection. Go figure.