POSTED BY Kirgy January 29th, 2012 : 0 COMMENTS
One day, about seven years ago, I bought a backpack in a shop in Luxembourg. A lot of my friends immediately know what backpack I mean. The reason is, is because its quite unique. Its not unique because It was made this way or because of a famous encounter. Its unique because it reflects myself in it.
I am an individual, unique. I have my own character, style and personality. This is true of every one of us. Yet each one of us is set in a society where we are all members of community. This may be your local community of your street or town. It may be the community of your work place, of your home and family. For some we have some more chosen communities; fitness clubs, pubs or even religious centres.
But it goes further than that. Our world is a business world, of branding and advertisement. When you buy an iPhone for example you become part of the Apple community. I remember once sitting in the passenger seat of a Mini Cooper and every time we passed another Mini Cooper the drivers would either wave or tap their horn; when you drive a Mini, you become a member of that community.
And its interesting. The world at the moment is going from a transition sociologically. In time past, it was seen as honourable in the west to be seen as part of a corporation, part of something bigger. Today there seems to be a micro uprising against this; the celebration of community. We still have a lot of community spirit today don’t get me wrong.
Yet, when some people look at my backpack they begin to think of several things, and its been quite often that I’m told, “all those patches are different organisations, companies or groups with their own identity. How can you say that your identity is unique? All you are doing is stealing other peoples creation! You’re the same as everyone else. You’re born on the factory line.”
That is really interesting. Born on the factory line. Seth Godin in his little book “Poke the Box” talks about how it is all too common for individuals to be factory line people. Stuck in the train of thought and being, which the industrial age brought with it. He talks about how entrepreneurial people are free and successful in a world where the factory line is disappearing. We hear of futurists describing how 3-D printing in our homes will change the production line and get rid of it once and for all on the most part. And his underlining idea is good.
There is such a celebration in the west today of individualism. You have to be yourself, yet we are surrounded by these things which seem to attract us into this factory line. I love Android, people that know me, know I love Android. Its the whole Linux philosophy which attracts me to Android, I say how great it is, talk about at almost any given opportunity. Is this then bad?
Should I become vigilant to things which are in opposition to individualism? Do things like Apple, McDonalds, Nike, BMW and Coldplay hinder my personality? If I am a true and real individual should I tear these patches from my backpack and throw them away? Surely I should liberate myself from the corporate oppression which has bound us long enough!
There is something so fundamentally wrong with this attitude. Since when has individualism and community been enemies? There is nothing wrong with owning an iPhone. Theres nothing wrong with buying Nike. By doing so, you’re not discarding your liberty and flattening your personality. On the contrary. Expressing one self through community is natural.
There are bad communities however. Communities, which are bad for us as individuals. I believe the Nazi communities are bad, and bad for us. I believe Al Qaeda is a bad community to be a part of. But its not community in general that’s bad, its the content of that community.
One big hardship I get as a Christian at a Bible College is being told that I’m being brainwashed by these people; by this Church which has stood for two thousand years lording it over people. Controlling their personality and branding them as “christian.”
It is good to be in community if the community is good itself. Being part of community builds character, it makes us strong. It is the catalyst in destroying the self righteous ego. It doesn’t toss out personality, it creates it. It doesn’t dampen creativity, it refreshes it. Its the glue in lives of the world.
Each patch on my bag represents the communities I am part of. Whether that be a passing connection to My Chemical Romance or a life commitment to God’s Church. These communities make up who I am. The same is true for you. What you’re interested in and are involved in creates you. Its like a patch on your life, or a strand in your DNA. Its a place to outreach to, or a place to call home.
Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater! In church life in particular; if we lose contact with church and choose to “go it alone,” we run the risk of running ashore. We loose our DNA. We start to care more about ourselves and less about others. Our faith becomes less the endless water of life, and more the dry pit of death. Was it not community with God that founded Christian faith? Then why do we consider it a good thing to break away from that? To abandon community?
Just remember; community is a gift, not a burden. Don’t be too quick to tear off your patches.