20 December 2009

Community and Individualism

This morning I was snowed in, and unable to get to Meeting for Worship.  I'm always sad when this happens, because I have come to rely deeply on the time spent in corporate silence, to direct my life and focus me for the week ahead.  Why, you ask?  It is because I believe deeply that one cannot live a life of integrity and wholeness devoid of community.

I found this video on youtube this morning, (The Myth of the Individual, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dI4KIos7tuU)  as I was searching for a sort of community with my fellow Friends via Quakerquaker and a variety of other social connection sites.  Parker Palmer talks here about the paradox of community and individualism; that one cannot exist without the other.  In order to bring ourselves into community, he says, we must bring ourselves, our whole individual self, to the table.  This short conversation is well worth listening to as a foundation for your own silent meditation.

I have mostly approached this conversation as a dialectic for our societal culture of individualism.  I want to call to Friends to stand strong and vocal in their communities, to call others to join in, and to speak out in our individualistic society for the need for community.  I have said that I feel that community is the single most powerful tool Quakers bring to the table, whether the conversation be about peace, ecopolitics, world hunger, or any other social justice issue. 

What Parker Palmer speaks about is the paradox of individualism and community:  that one cannot exist without the other.  In fact, a conversation about being a strong individual has no merit spoken in a vacuum.  What he points out is the strength of the many individuals discerned in corporate worship; that in the practice of sharing our silence, we begin to be able to discern the greater good that can be found.

I don't want to digress from this message in too much conversation here.  Rather I would encourage you to listen to Parker's message and spend some time with me in silence.  Then bring to the conversation what you have heard from the Greater Good, the Light within.


    Every family should have a “go to” person who can give answers to political and issue concerns, as suggested by Rush Limbaugh. Learning how means starting at the roots, the beginnings and differences between two sides of the same coin, which is all there is. One side is long established, where the few rule the many, irrespective of their labels. The other side is the newest, that of individual freedom and limited government. Why do many follow each side, and why the conflict between them? What side do current issues come from, such as health care, cap and trade as well as amnesty for illegal immigrants? What side of the coin most impacts the lives of your family, to whom you provide the answers? Call up claysamerica.com for the roots of both sides and improve your understanding of the issues so you have the answers. Claysamerica.com

  2. Yes, Clay, I agree that we all need that "go to" person. Adolescents in particular benefit from having a trusted adult outside of their family to bounce things off of.

    Here, though, I am suggesting an even deeper thing. That is, that through the process of corporate worship together, seeking God's will, we are led to find answers to our questions of how and why to act in a given situation, according to God's will.

    As Quakers, we believe in ongoing revelation, meaning that the same wisdom Jesus revealed to the original disciples is available to us through the inward Light or the Light of Christ, as some call it. Corporate worship and silence within one's worship community is a powerful place to experience that direction from God, and the community helps with the discernment process.