Had a nice night out with some friends last night eating curry and drinking beer. Mmmmm.
There were six of there, all men- David for the first time- and as well as the usual man-talk subjects (mostly involving some kind of bodily function) we talked about our local community.
We are all ‘incomers’ to our town- one from England, one from Ireland, and the rest from other parts of Scotland. And like most incomers, our relationship to place requires a degree of negotiation- and it also inevitably means asking lots of questions about the nature and characteristics of the community we are part of.
It is a regular pre-occupation of mine, as regular readers of this blog will know well. The quality of our lives depends so much on the depth and degree of our relationships with others. This seems a lesson that we desperately need to re-learn.
Modernity taught us individualism- Post modernity hit us with its fluidity and disconnection. The internet added distance and diversity, and we were left with… what?
Empty village halls, clubs and churches that no-one belongs to any more. Family units who pass each other in the school yard.
Of course, I exaggerate. There are many thriving clubs and churches- including in our lovely little town. But the direction of travel towards social disconnectedness is well documented- as is the potential cost.
We Christians were shown a different way to live by Jesus. A way of life lived for the other. Forming Ecclesia’s who practice a form of radical community and out of this gathering seek to be a blessing to the towns they are part of.
I was half remembering a little bit of philosophy today as I drove around Argyll. It was that old rogue Jean Jacques Rousseau, and his own struggle to distinguish between the individual self, and the collective self.
Rousseau believed us all driven by two opposites- the Moi (me, or I) and the Moi Commun (the communal I.)
The first of these- the Moi fits well with modern enlightenment thinking- this from here.
The utopia of the independant, fulfilled moi is Rousseau’s most popular message to the modern world. It’s existence is so pervasive an assumption in western society that any educator who challenged it as an ideal would be forwith banished.
The Roussean ‘I’ is alive in the present day rhetoric of the search for identity, in a whole series of theses about self actuation from Marx through Maslow.
But Rousseau’s thinking did not end there- he remained convinced that our ideal as humans was discovered in collective with other humans- the collective I, or Moi Commun.
This collective experience is so much more than the subjugation of the individual will to the numerical superiority of the collective. It is the place where the Moi finds absolute fulfillment and identity.
These ideas became the seeds for ideological and actual revolution- as many ideas do.
Perhaps they are appealing because they are familiar ideas, to followers of Jesus at least.
Another one of what CS Lewis called ‘Christian heresies’ perhaps…
The curry was nice by the way- and indeed led to it’s own internal revolution.