Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Individually Individualized Individualism

13"When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, 'Who do people say the Son of Man is?' 14They replied, 'some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.' 15'But what about you?' he asked. 'Who do you say I am?' 16Simon Peter answered. 'You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.' 17Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in Heaven.

--Matthew 16: 13-17

"You critics like to criticize,
but couldn't visualize,
individual's lives
through a criminal's eyes,"

--Eminem1

So, I am once again reminded of a general rejecting ethic of individualism in society and in my church. A little while back, I wrote about a woman I went on a few dates with who claimed to be individualist, but was not this at all. And even in my church, though the majority of the congregation2 means well and does indeed welcome other people's presences and participation in events and services (their hearts are correct), there is a tiny, tiny piece of group mentality that still, by nature, rejects assertions/notions that seem to stray too far from what Christ is about. Please note that I said "seem to".....to them, that is.

There is also this infesting phenomena of cliques, groups of people that work (consciously or subconsciously) towards being socially exclusive, forming in the church. Understandably, the church is located in Manhattan, a city completely symbolic of what I've described in Note 2. And so, being surrounded by an infinite number of things strange and new3, it would be relief to find people that are from the same background and singular culture as you are and to stick with them for comfort. Perhaps the run-off stream of emotion from this is the fear of judgment or persecution or mockery or condescendence they'd receive from putting themselves out there to people of cultures that are different. Perhaps they've been hurt in the past or have pieces of personal history that they believe would bring public shame or mockery. Whatever it is, their situation is obviously lacking the notion of God's glory and Grace, key elements in individualism. In addition, the church administration is working for the place to be of inclusivity that welcomes people of all viewpoints and emotions, and the cliques hurt this goal directly.

But I digress. If secular readers have not flipped to another web page by now, I thank you for you time. So far, it appears to me when the general person thinks of individualism, they picture either the inconsiderate, destructive capitalist who just goes around stomping, stealing and cutting through everyone else possessions to make a large stash of their own (for a great visual of this, play "BioShock" on the XBox 360. Or look at George Bush). Or they picture the noisy, emo anarchist who works to blow ideals into ash for the sole purpose of causing discomfort, confusion, despair or even pain. Now, while these caricatures unfortunately do exist, it is ridiculous to paint this picture on each and every single person who wants to use a bit of your resources for another end4 or to cause you to look back at yourself and ask questions. The rational individualist does these things for good reason or to good ends.

The point of individualism is to go against the mind that treats every man, woman, Black, Chinese or Australian with the same broad stroke of human application. To end the monumentally absurd notion that what applies for one white man, one Indian woman, one black boy, one purple alien, etc. applies for all of that biological breed. 5 Individualism recognizes in each and every single person their talents, struggles, grief, complexes, and guides them to a better place based on those elements.

Somebody could argue: "well, if this is done according to this person, and that is done according to that person, and everyone is just doing their own thing, how would there be any unified whole to progress?" But just because each and every individual existential case is recognized and supported doesn't mean that there can't be a transcending whole that people adhere to. Individualism recognizes the key talents in each person that adds to that whole. So, the first person can focus on the fact that 50 Cent's lyrical skill is that of a drunk baby sheep with autism. The second person could argue that selling C.D.s with nothing on them but Bill O'Reilly 6 listing hundreds of ways in which people can kill themselves with homemade poison would probably do better for the sake of Hip-Hop as a culture than what 50 Cent is doing. The unified whole they both contribute to is the fact that 50 Cent has no business on anyone's television, radio, wall, movie screen or mind.

Up there in the book of Matthew, Simon Peter was glorified because he came to know God himself, and not through a bunch of images and concepts that other men told him. He didn't tell him to talk to the most voluminous or popular group that worships Me and make sure you do things the way they do it. He said He was proud that Simon came to know God himself. We should all be doing the same, and respecting and learning from each other what the other has "come to know". Perfect world peace or whatever will not come immediately after adopting this approach, but there will then be a tangible welcoming community.

Notes:
1) The point is, he painted the picture of a group of people who could place themselves in other people's shoes. You can take or leave the "criminal" part.
2) This is not necessarily their fault. I, myself must always remember that they come from a more culturally traditional and homogenous background and atmosphere where values and emotions and thoughts are handed to you by elders to have. Where as I was raised in the city, a thriving thing that is culturally varied by hundreds or even thousands of shades, and values and emotions and thoughts are ascertained through self-discovery.
3) Another difference: the rural person is usually encouraged to stay away from the "strange and new", while the urban person knows that if there is to be peace in the Metropolis, the strange and new must be embraced.
4) I speak of the NGOs or the Non-Profits who want to use your money to preserve a particular arctic area or rainforest or species, or perhaps campaign in Civil Rights.
5) In addition to the note in my last post, this ethic could also be argued as part of the basis for violent insurrections, revolts and school shootings.
6) Right-wing political commentator, author, T.V. show host, and all-around waste of time.

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