Chesterton human dignity

The Power of the Individual

9:05:00 AMTheresa Corgan

If there’s any one concept that has been hailed and glorified by my generation, I think it would have to be individuality. Individuality is not only preached by popular radio anthems and TV commercials, but it is also a powerful idea that hits home within the psyche of our culture.

Be your own person. Embrace yourself. You are unique. Unrepeatable.

Nowadays, when I scroll through my facebook page, I see many articles lamenting another recent suicide of a transgender teen who felt isolated and unaccepted. I see music stars racing to see who can appear on an awards show dressed in the most outrageous, unique outfit. I see “judgment” being condemned as the worst sin of all, especially in the battle for same-sex marriage.

Who are we to judge someone else? Why can’t we let everyone be their own person? Decide for themselves who they want to become?

Like every modern idea, this concept of individuality is rooted in a deep and sacred truth.

In philosophy, we might call this individuality a type of subjectivism. It means that when there is an object, a concrete living thing out there in the world, the human being encounters it as a subject. The human person is a unique, unrepeatable, individual subject. He can comprehend, think, act, and respond for himself, and only for himself. Man is not just an object or a fact. He is subject.

Individuality means a wondrous existence. We are not machines. We are not bound to some eternal, cyclic order of reality. As subjective individuals, we have the unbelievable power of freedom. We can create beauty. We can shape who we become.

 Where does the modern creed of individuality go wrong?

Well, in order for man to be subjectively individual and unique, there must always be an objective in relation to him. Subject and object must always work together. If you take “subject” away, you are left with a world of cold, hard facts and objects. But if you take “object” away, you are left with a world of limitless individualism, with no certainty, no truth, and no true individuality. Objective reality must always encounter persons. It’s how we make that encounter that counts. That’s what makes life so thrilling: a great dialogue of being, so to speak.

How can we mold ourselves into individuals that are worth becoming? 

We must find objective truths and real principles. We must conform ourselves to them.

Objective truth?! Doesn’t that mean we’ll all end up as the same carbon copies of each other? What about my individuality?
  
Here’s the glorious thing: the way in which we conform ourselves to objective reality is all our own and this conformation makes us even more unique than we already are. No two people do it in the same way. Think of Pier Giorgio Frassati, Mother Teresa, Edith Stein, or Dietrich von Hildebrand. They all stood for something real, something objective. But they all are vastly different: each has their own character, their own mind, and their own unique personality. Truth makes for radical diversity. It’s where the fun happens. It’s where individuality flourishes.

Let’s not get lost in the modern vacuum of objective-less individualism. Let’s find the truth.

For as Chesterton writes about the truth: "The more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild."


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Theresa Corgan  

I am a world-ranked Irish dancer, aspiring painter and drawer, truth seeker and coffee drinker.  I study Humanities and Catholic Culture and Philosophy.  I would love to teach high school students and challenge them to become philosophers in their own right.  I also want an Irish dance studio, a painting studio and a bunch of children named after my favorite saints.  




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