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Individualism as inverted counterfeit
> The present age tends toward a mathematical equality in which it takes so and so many to make one individual.
It is often said that our age, our society, is plagued by ‘individualism.’ This can be broadly understood as a narrowing of the spheres of reciprocity—let alone generosity—to the point of encompassing only the individual. The area beyond this sphere is that in which a person will, according to their capacity, pursue their goals with a more or less pure economic rationalism. This is certainly a part of the problem, but we must explore the opposite aspect: that in our age there are not enough individuals.
We live today not in a world of individuals but one dictated by the movement of great ships upon which thousands crowd and gawk from the railings. The captains of these ships will speak proudly from their loudspeakers as pathetic dinghies are come upon at sea; yet even a dinghy is not an individual—where are those that swim these days? All thus crowd together and, per the economic individualism outlined earlier, tend readily to act as on the raft of the Méduse. If another needs to be pushed overboard to secure our position, so be it; and if we are hungry …
But this is not the point, what matters is that we find few out treading water on their own over the deep. Ours is an age in which such a thing seems impossible; it is that a strange sort of gravity bears down upon us, that it seems to operate upon us like the first gravity as a law bound by necessity. Even those that would think themselves free of this ought look again, for our merely orbiting a smaller planet is not freedom; it serves only to define ourselves as such against the other—which is what they do also.
We may well find gravity works thus even in the most natural places, whether among family or with friends; it is found wherever we submit blindly to the pull of weight. This can easily give way to a spiritual sloth, whereby we abdicate the trust and slip below. Submission is alike the highest aim, of course, and yet there are a thousand species within this realm; it is best to be always wary of inverted counterfeits. Christ may well have ridden into Jerusalem upon a donkey, but he did not let it lead him.
“If I am successfully understood, my listener will have acquired the benefit that his life will have been made significantly more difficult for him than ever before, and therefore I will not urge anyone to accept this invitation.”