We humans are not only intensely focused on ourselves and how we live our lives, but almost as equally interested in other people and what they do with theirs.
And it is that balancing act between the invididual and the community that will always save us.
After reading the lives of the Architects of the Culture of Death (Benjamin DeMarco, Ph.D, Ignatius Press), people such as Freud, Nietzche, Marx and many others, I was struck by the tragedy of their personal lives. Each one of them came from broken homes, marred by misogyny, or scarred by hatred, disunity, and selfishness.
Looking at my past, I realized that plenty of my experiences match those of the novels I’d devoured growing up. My family is broken by annulment and location, and I’ve struggled to establish my identity as an individual. But I always felt that one thing (among many) has saved me. I was always been a bookworm.
I believe I was fortunate to learn from early on that my experience of reality wasn’t definitive. I’d read the lives and experiences of so many hundreds of heroes, heroines and fairy tales that I knew my experience was flawed. If I didn’t enjoy the perfect pattern of life, at least it existed somewhere, and I could work toward it – rather than rewrite reality to match a broken background.
If there’s one thing that we leave to posterity, it is the distillation of common experience, the universal truths of personhood and humanity condensed into countless stories. Some of the best are the fairy tales, where truths of justice, consequence and morality paint unflinching symbols.
Other stories like legends and fiction fascinate us, helping us rise above our individual experience.
Too much of the individual, and the view of reality, relationships and romance becomes skewed, giving rise to the monolithic philosophical titans of our modern era, who have redefined love, life and existence according to their isolated, individual experiences – far too often crippled and tragic.
Too much of the community, and the view of reality and purpose becomes faceless, swallowed up into a sea of uniform drops serving another’s ideal.
Finding a Balance
Human nature rebels against either. For a while, the pendulum rocks from side to side, but only in the middle does it find rest.
For this reason do children starve for stories, to learn from the common experience, to be filled up with the hopes of hundreds of lives. I’m convinced that if the modernist titans had more stories to read, they could have worked their way through their family issues, and not grown into the stunted heretics of humanity they became.
Granted, none of this excludes the grace of God, personal choice, and other factors. What it does highlight is how crucial is the ordinary transmission of experience, through the common heritage of a community.
A storyteller is more than a time-filler. He guides, preserves and directs the minds of the future, by reminding them that they were born into a world of situations and effects already in motion, with preset patterns and channels created hundreds of years before, and yet above everything, the indispensability of their personhood is to be gripped with iron fists.
Persons raised on either end of the individual vs community seesaw will create imbalanced cultures. Only a fulcrum brings the fullness of balance.
Children starve for stories, to learn from common experience, to be filled up with the hopes of hundreds of lives. http://t.co/YupqHAwxg5
— CatholicAuthor (@CatholicAuthor) March 16, 2014