There is much to be said about the preoccupation (and perhaps even infatuation) North American culture has had with the concept of individualization. At birth, we begin to be bombarded with limitless forms of communication regarding our formation as an individual. Early on parents of a newborn child help to shape who they understand themselves to be through the clothes they way, the interaction they have, the food they eat and other environmental factors they are exposed to.
As this child continues to grow and develop, they begin to experiment with different ways of expressing themselves while being taught to develop their individual skill set through education, the arts, apprenticeships, fashion and work experience, among other things. The focal point of the ascension of humanity in the North American bubble is "to be all you can be." And while there is intentional emphasis of individual development, there is shockingly less focus on communal wholeness. Sure we may reference the fact that humans are to develop a social conscience, and learn to manage conflict with others, but there seems to be far less attention paid to the development of an entire communal hub (family or some other connecting point) than there is on individual achievement here in the first world.
I've had the privilege of travelling to a number of different countries outside of North America. What I find refreshing from my experience (other than cuisine), is the communal perspective from which many of these international cultures create rhythm. You may have heard the notion that "it takes a village to raise a child." It's one thing to say something like this and another to see it lived out in a contextual setting. With all the emphasis we North Americans place on individual achievement, I wonder if we unintentionally sacrifice our innate desire to connect with others? Have we defined connection to mean a source of weakness instead of strength?
In no way shape or form am I suggesting that individual people don't matter...quite the contrary. Every individual does matter, and because they matter, they have purpose. Part of this purpose is to connect with others in a communal hub. So if the communal connection is just as important (if not more so in some respects) than the individual connection, how does the way we approach a rhythm for life need to change?
I'd like to suggest three simple ideas that may inspire all of us to create a new sense of rhythm.
1. Lone wolves always die. The concept of a communal hub can also be witnessed within the realm of the animal kingdom. Most living creatures prefer to exist in community (schools of fish, pack of wolves, herd of elephants, etc.). Animals have learned that there is not only safety in numbers but also great strength. A great white shark can fall victim to a pod of dolphins that will mercilessly fend of their predator by bombarding it with a barrage of full speed collisions with their rigid noses. The animals that exist in isolation seem to have a decreased limit to their effectiveness and in many cases their actual lifespan.
When a lion is stalking a herd in search for fresh prey, they spend a significant amount of time observing the community. The lion takes note of how a community responds to a potential threat. As a strategic moment, the lion will race towards the herd at full speed with the intention of creating and instilling fear into its prey. If the herd stays together, it can fend off the attack. If, however, an individual animal gets separated from the community at large...well, let's just say it doesn't end well for them.
If we are created for the purpose of connecting with others, than believing that we can "go at life alone" is not only a lie, it's a death trap. Lone wolves always die. Sure, you might win a battle or two, but in the end you will lose your life, and you will die alone.
2. When it's all over. We all know that life on earth doesn't last forever. I've had the honor and privilege to walk with many individuals and families as they have walked through the inevitable reality of death. The common thread in each of these individual stories continues to be how they did or did not connect with those whom they loved. No matter how grand their life had been; no matter what they did or acquired, at the end of their life itself, they chose to celebrate their connections with people, not things.
The only investment that pays true reward is that which we make in the lives of others. Positive or negative, how we connect with people will be the only thing that matters to us when our lives are over. Disagree with me? The next time you are in a public space where multiple generations are present, watch how our elder generations celebrate life. What are they making time for?
3. Connection is strength, not weakness. Imagine for a moment that our world can be represented with individual Lego pieces. Now I happen to really love Lego...it's a fascinating invention. These building blocks can create some incredible masterpieces. But there is still a limit to Lego's creativity. You are unable to create something with just one piece. You might have a really great piece of Lego, but unless it's combined with other pieces it will always be limited in what it can do.
This same principal can be said of us as human beings. Unless we intentionally choose to create connection with others, a communal hub of sorts, we will not be able to achieve our potential in our original design for life. Community isn't an option...it's a necessity. We cannot exist in isolation. Resist the pressure of complete individualization and embrace the idea that connection creates strength, not weakness.