Friday, May 11, 2018

I Meets We

I am a human being. I am told that that means I am a completely unique entity. I exist inside a physical form unlike any other; even each identical twin has some distinguishing characteristic that sets them apart. Over time, that form continuously changes, yet there is always an “I” inside that continues on unceasingly. The human form is operated by a brain that makes all the other parts go, oftentimes seemingly without any overt assistance from me. It continues doing so until at some point in time the physical form collapses and comes to its inevitable end.

There is also a non-physical me that rides along “inside” my human form, but that transcends that form. If I should lose a leg, or contract a disease, that alters my form. But the I inside continues on, adapting as necessary to new conditions of physical existence, but still “I” nonetheless. Wrapped up inside of me are all the non-physical components of my life: my inherited ancestral consciousness of fears, love and survival; the experiences of my lifetime; the memories, which fade in and out over time; the thoughts and beliefs developed; the inspirations and talents that await expression and fulfillment. In the sum totality of the parts that I am, I am truly unique.

Notwithstanding my uniqueness, I continually seek to find my place to flower and grow in the greater world that envelops me. In that outer place, I am barely unique at all; I share a commonality with all other forms of human life. Each of our physical forms began from the physical union of our male and female parents; we are all therefore concurrently some part male and part female. Collectively on this planet, I am but one component of over seven billion other human beings, and one of approximately 3.5 billion of my designated gender. I am merely one of 325M Americans, 36M people over 65, 10M residents of my state, and 250K of my city. I am simply a one-line entry in the vast pages of census records.

I have certain spiritual, political and social opinions that may be similar to the opinions of others, but likely different in their combined totality that makes up a belief system. I live a daily life partly unique to I, but one that is also continually engaged with some portion of WE each day. I am fully dependent upon others for the food, water, shelter, transportation, and entertainment that sustains I. I am interdependent with all living things, both human and non-human, in the air, earth, and resources I share with WE. In this larger perspective of my existence, there is not much overly unique about I at all. If I am birthed, then I will engage in some experiences unique to me, as well as experiences that are common to some others even though I may interpret them uniquely to me. I will live within the law of continuous change that governs the life of all things. After an accumulation of those experiences appropriate for me, I will then die.

This is the struggle we constantly face. Which are my uniquely “I” experiences, and which arise from my being part of WE? When should I defer to the greater good of WE, and when does WE need to back away and leave space for I? Both the I and WE aspects of me need to find expression, our time to be nurtured in the sunlight of humanity. Without such balancing and nurturing, the individual human being withers, and gradually societies die. There are no absolute rules to direct us to easy answers for this balancing, just informed thinking and mature judgement to guide us through the difficult tangles of our personal decision-making.

Most all of our human, cultural, political and societal conflicts that arise are due to this continual effort to balance our see-saw choices between I and WE. For example, in my society I am told that I have a guaranteed right to own a firearm. But I also have a shared responsibility to help keep others safe. Is not my Right to own a gun subject to certain limits in order to meet my responsibility to ensure the safety of WE?

I have the Right to determine the unique religious beliefs most appropriate for I. But am I not also obligated to extend the same respect and unfettered capability to WE?

In the privacy of my home and place of worship, I am granted the Right to practice my faith as I see fit. But when I meet up with WE in the public place, where each of us is constitutionally equal to one another, am I not also obligated to refrain from inflicting my religious practices and symbols onto WE?

Behind the wheel of an automobile, I am king of the road. But am I not also obligated to limit my speed and keep my car well-maintained to ensure the safety of those WE who are also on the road?

In the marketplace of things and services, I have the Right to engage in the career or commerce that most fulfills the dreams and capabilities of I. But am I not also obligated to give those gifts of things and services to all who seek them without discriminating among the WE? Does private property exist in the public place?

As a parent, the decisions about my child reside in the judgment of I. But when I choose to withhold treatment that can kill the child, or abstain from vaccinations that can prevent the infection of others, am I not also obligated to keep We free from the threat of that illness?

I have a Right to speak the thoughts and opinions of I, no matter how odious to the conventional norms of WE. But when my words are intentionally designed to cause mental pain, or perhaps endanger the physical well-being of WE, or to thwart the aspirational goals of the society of WE, is such speech still to be protected?

I and WE live within every one of us. Each is in a perpetual dance for expression, often one in conflict with the other, sometimes each in harmony with the other. In those times of conflict, can I and We seek to find the harmonic expression? Which version of me will step forward in any given situation?

©   2018   Randy Bell   

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