We rightfully cherish our rugged individualism and our freedom, both.
Especially here, in America, where we have been forced, all too many times, to take up arms to preserve, protect, and defend them.
We have witnessed, and we have forcefully rejected, the brutal, soul-crushing destructiveness of the world’s most duplicitous “isms” – communism, fascism, and totalitarianism. We inherently sense that, imposed by fiat from above, any form of communitarianism tends to debase our freedoms, diminish our lives, and asphyxiate our spirits.
And yet . . .
And yet we are not alone. Nor were we created to be loners, as even Adam discovered quickly.
Our inter-connectedness is obvious, even if we deny its relevance in our lives.
We, each of us each day, dispense fragments – chunks, really – of our humanity to those around us, whether for good or ill, whether separated by inches or miles.
No, perhaps we are not one in the sense that we act as if a single organism.
But we each necessarily affect the other. And we each either build up or diminish the rest.
It is by first acknowledging our own lack that we can let go and finally grow – because it is only then that we can turn to those around us to help fill in the daunting gaps, and replace the missing pieces of our perfection.
Freedom and individualism, yes.
But free will and authentic freedom must first and foremost enable us to seek our better selves.
And we can only do so through others.
If freedom fails us, we may well come to discover that we are truly alone, left to our own imperfections and our individual failings – perhaps coming to know, all too late, that we could have found a better way, together.
Thomas Merton summed it up just about right in No Man Is An Island:
It is therefore of supreme importance that we consent to live not for ourselves but for others.
When we do this we will be able first of all to face and accept our own limitations.
As long as we secretly adore ourselves, our own deficiencies will remain to torture us with an apparent defilement.
But if we live for others, we will gradually discover that no one expects us to be ‘as gods’.
We will see that we are human, like everyone else, that we all have weaknesses and deficiencies, and that these limitations of ours play a most important part in all our lives.
It is because of them that we need others and others need us.
We are not all weak in the same spots, and so we supplement and complete one another, each one making up in himself for the lack in another.
We are not all weak in the same spots.
We need each other.
We are not meant to be alone.
May you, today, use your very freedom to connect to others as you walk your own path home.
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