Individualism and individuality have to be separated. Individualism can take a turn where it’s a kind of egoistic, selfish thing: Me, me, me, me, and what I want and what I care, what I think and what I like. Oh sure, we need to have the liberty to express all that, but a real individual is a different thing. And to be truly one’s self is to be truly in contact with this great self within, this divinity within. And the paradox of true individuality is that the more you are in touch with what all human beings have in common under God, the more you are uniquely what you, yourself, are. And that’s why I say we need to bring back the obligations that go along with the rights in order to understand the depths of what the human rights really mean.
Liberty as Inner Work
Trent Gilliss, online editor
As I mentally prepare for the annual Fourth of July parade in Mandan, North Dakota that will last hours, I remembered Krista’s enlightening interview with Jacob Needleman, a philosopher who spoke about the spiritual and moral ideals of the American founders — and how these ideals resonate in our culture today.
Democracy, Needleman says, is inner work, not just a set of outward structures. And, as we as a society reassess our priorities during these uncertain economic times, his conversation from several years ago seem particularly prescient, and wise:
“It’s become so trivialized, freedom. It’s wonderful to be able to go where I want and do what I want and buy what I want, buy and buy, and get and get, and talk and talk, and I have no constraints. We certainly need external liberty. God knows that’s one of the most precious things this country has to offer the masses of humanity who have come here. I don’t mean to put that down in any way. Without that, without that, the rest is just academic. But without the inner meaning of freedom and liberty, we have to ask, ‘Well, what is this freedom for?’ It’s not just a freedom to get a big house and a big car and a lot of goods. So inner freedom is an idea that has gone out of our conversation. Inner freedom means inwardly to be free from these egoistic, selfish cravings, which make our life turn around into chaos. It’s an interior freedom which maybe you can say is mystical or certainly spiritual, but without that dimension to the idea of freedom, the idea of freedom becomes purely external and eventually selfish.”
‘If any of these said persons come in love unto us, we cannot in conscience lay violent hands upon them, but give them free egress and regress unto our town. For we are bound by the law of God and man to do good unto all men and evil to no man.’
from the Flushing Remonstrance, signed on Dec. 27, 1657, and cited in Kenneth T. Jackson’s Op-Ed article “A Colony with a Conscience” in The New York Times
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor