Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Community of Individuals

The community serves the individual so that the individual might serve the community by being an individual within the community! The purpose of the community is to produce individuals! The community draws the individual forth, individualizing, you might say, the individuals who belong to the community. The community is careful to NOT erase the distinctions among the individuals within the community—is careful to NOT reduce everyone to some communal standard of thought, belief, and practice, so that everyone is a mirror image of everyone else and “we’re all just one big happy family,” believing the same beliefs, thinking the same thoughts, stepping in the black footprints and living our lives the way life is supposed to be lived, the way life is being lived by everyone around us (in a “Let’s just get along,” “Let’s be nice,” “Let’s go along to get along,” kind of way).

Never, not once, in the history of humanity, has there ever been a single case of civilization advancing by way of a communal decision to think and do things differently. Every single advance (you could look this up) has been made by individuals standing apart from the community, asserting themselves over against the community, risking the ire of the community, in order to think and do things differently. Culture is carried forward by individuals. The individual is the incubator, developer, guardian and guide of society. Healthy communities produce healthy individuals who produce healthy communities. Who WE are as Presbyterian Church of the Covenant depends entirely upon who YOU and YOU and YOU and YOU are. YOU and YOU and YOU and YOU can never think of laying YOU aside in order to fit in, belong, and be as WE are! And WE have to see to it that YOU and YOU and YOU and YOU become YOU so that WE might become a healthy, viable, living and alive WE!

All the talk about becoming a community comes down to how well we care for and about one another and honor the sanctity of each individual psyche, soul, self. WE bring each other forth. WE are guardians and protectors of the vulnerable, fragile, self we each are. The baby in the manger depends upon the right social environment in order to become the Christ he is capable of becoming. We are all the baby in the manger, looking for the right social environment to come forth as the Christ in the world. It is our place as the community, the WE, to provide the right atmosphere for the coming forth of the Christ, the True Human Being, that we are all capable of being. Yet, we are not all to become the SAME Christ! My Christ is not your Christ, and your Christ is not Jesus’ Christ! Christians are not Jesus impersonators. They are their own version of the Christ—the Christ as only they can be the Christ. The world is transformed, is saved, is restored to harmony with itself, not by our becoming who Jesus was, but by our becoming who we are! And, it takes the right kind of community to bring us forth into the individual self, soul, psyche that each of us is.

How do we do it? We do it through conversation. We do it by listening. Loving. Accepting. Questioning. Inquiring. Asking. Seeking. Knocking. Exploring. Imagining. Playing... We do it by practicing the fundamentals of life together. Grace, mercy, peace, you know. We do it by remembering it isn’t about jumping through anybody’s hoops, or preening ourselves to look like somebody else, or molding and shaping and forming ourselves into the community’s idea of who we ought to be. We do it by knowing it is about living life that is meaningful to us, and that no one knows what is meaningful to us but US. LIFE requires us to do what is meaningful to us. We have to live in service to what we experience as meaningful—not in service to someone else’s idea of what should be meaningful.

A true community is composed of individuals who are living lives that are meaningful to them—which is enabled by the atmosphere they create in the community they form together. It is a circle, but the heart of the circle is the individuality of the members of the community. We do not sacrifice that which is essential to the individual self for the sake of the community. When the “I’s” give themselves up so that the WE might be happy, the WE dissolves into a pseudo community which does much damage. It is NOT better that even one person die than that the whole nation perish!

And yet, and yet… If you ain’t dying, you ain’t living! LIFE is grounded on our dying to our idea of what it means to “really live.” Adam and Eve in Eden. Jesus in Gethsemane. Adam and Eve died by refusing to die. Jesus lived by handing himself over to death. We can’t live if we will not die—again and again—to all that stands between us and life, and we are the ones who stand in the way! The question we must answer—again and again—is “Whose side are we on?” The right kind of community reminds us to ask and helps us answer that question. The question can ONLY be asked and answered from the standpoint of our participation in the right kind of community!

If we ain't dying, we ain't living. LIFE—being fully alive—asks hard things of us. Risky things. We can't be safe, secure and comfortable and be alive. We cannot do what we want and be alive. What we want isn’t the point. Being alive is the point. Being alive often requires us to do what we don't want. The deadest people you know are doing what they want. We are not here to hang out in the mall, or in the book store, or in the bars, or at the concerts and the movies until we die.

In “The Fellowship of the Ring,” Gandalf says, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” What are you doing with the time that has been given to you? Of what does life consist? What do you do that means the most to you? As we answer these questions we come alive. Notice, they have nothing to do with what we want. Life does not consist of what we wish to be “of life” for us. We don't do what is meaningful because we want to but because we have to. Wanting has nothing to do with it. LIFE is not about getting, having, doing what we want!

However, this isn’t the way we live. We live in service to our desires and ambitions. What we want requires us to live in ways that rule out what means the most to us. Adam and Eve in Eden, not doing what it takes to live, living themselves to death. How does what we want to do keep us from doing what means the most to us? Whose side are we on?

We have to trust ourselves to the service of what is meaningful to us. This is the beam that Joseph Campbell talks about when he says, “We know when we are on the beam and when we are off of it.” We know when we are doing what is meaningful to us, even though that may not be what we WANT to be meaningful.

We have to know what is meaningful to us—and do it! If we are not going to do what is meaningful to us in the time left for living, when will we do it? To live without doing what is meaningful to us is to not live at all. In the grip of a meaningful vision—the sense of what must be done—we cast what we want aside to do the thing we have to do, even though it may make no sense and we will not be able to explain it to anyone, even ourselves.

In the grip of a meaningful vision comes to pass the saying, “Thy will, not mine, be done.” And we have no idea who the “Thy” is! It doesn't matter who the “Thy” is, or who we understand the “Thy” to be. We have to do the thing that must be done whether we want to or not! Get up in the cold and write! It's crazy. The most meaningful things are often crazy. We sit for hours waiting for the right light to take a photo no one will see. Crazy.

And the community understands this and encourages us to do the crazy thing, because that is the thing that brings us forth. We are connected at the level of the heart, soul, psyche, self with the thing that needs to be done—the thing that needs us to do it. That thing is our life. We live to do that thing. And don’t be literal-minded here, the thing that needs us may be more than one actual thing, it may be a lifetime of things strung together one after the other, or it may be a multi-tasking glob of things hurled throbbing, glowing, and spinning into our lives. The point is that we have to wake up to the fact that what most needs us to do it is what we most need to do. Even though it is crazy and makes no sense and we cannot do it and pay the bills. We’ll have to do something else to pay the bills.

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