Much of what looks like critical thinking is nothing more than a shift in fashion. We like to think ourselves wiser than previous generations but the evidence is not always conclusive. Maybe this generation is wiser in some respects but not all change indicates progress and not all progress indicates an increase in wisdom.
So much of what forms the foundations of Western society, comes to us from generations long since forgotten. Much of what forms our cultural bedrock has never been examined because it is indeed, the ground upon which all our judgement is exercised.
One of the most fundamental ideas passed to us through history is the idea that there is such thing as a single human being. Every part of our culture accepts that the basic human unit is the individual. Our education system teaches that individual effort will reward and bring advantages over those who are less able or less willing to learn. All of our law is based on the idea of the responsibility of the individual for their behavior. Our popular culture preaches the power of one at every opportunity. Most movies begin by revealing an injustice of some sort and then a story unfolds of how an individual saves the day, often with the assistance of that instrument most able to confirm this illusionary idea of the power of one; the gun. Even our attempts to heal social dysfunction mostly leave people more isolated in the process. We give people pills, pamphlets and programs and we form individuals as patients, clients and cases but “One” is lonely; it isn’t human.
To see the illusion and rethink the situation will cause us to look afresh at every aspect of our human arrangements. What if the fundamental number in the basic human unit is two? What if we are radically, hard wired as social beings? If the fundamental human unit is two, there is no human presence until there is community. The word, “I” could only ever at most describe, half of something.
An individual is only half human. The individual cannot think or act in a human way. The individual looks for half human answers to human needs. The individual thinks they need “stuff” in order to live a happy life. The individual tends not see people when in the company of others but only potential sources of stuff. There is ample evidence to demonstrate that no matter how much stuff is jammed into someone’s life, it does not yield human flourishing and there will be no transformation. There is only human being, when we find ourselves, together. You and me: Us together: No them.
Descartes got modernity off to a false start with his ‘cogito ergo sum’ (“I think therefore I am”). He kicked off a tradition of certainty about the self and uncertainty about the ‘other’. But without anyone else, there is no self. Everything that I know about me, came to me as a gift from someone else. Even my body was the outcome of the activity of others.
Tough though it is to pose this question, there is power, amazing power to heal our world, simply by knowing and acting for the sake of community. To be human is to be together.
About the Author: Rev. Graham Long
Rev. Graham Long is the Pastor and CEO of The Wayside Chapel. For the past 10 years, he has provided love and support to people on and around the streets of Sydney's Kings Cross who are homeless, mentally ill, drug addicted and often forgotten by society. Through the Wayside Chapel, Graham has created a community with 'no us and them'. A community free of judgement for people just to 'be'.