Robert Putnam recently made an eye-opening discovery: That while bowling leagues, and group bowling are experiencing a downward spiral of popularity, solo bowling is on the rise. The significance of this discovery, I think, is fairly self-explanatory.
The modern man is slowly eliminating himself from his community and becoming a mere floating individual. You can float around from place to place without any rhyme or reason. You can do what you want, whenever you want, as long as you don’t harm anyone. Of course each man was created as a unique and irreplaceable being, but that does not eliminate man’s need for another. True community is essential to the perfection of man’s destiny.
There’s a distinction between the way a floating individual views community and how one ought to see community. Floating individuals view community as a mass of people unintentionally thrown together. For example, let’s contrast a crowd of people at a local park with a family. Unlike an authentic community, like the family, the people at the park do not have clear roles. Each individual is equal and does not participate in another’s personal growth. Attendance to the park does not birth particular rights or responsibilities. The group is merely a gathering people with no intentionality.
The tendency of individualism is to view community in a selfish manner, namely to act as a means to an end, pleasure. If community is recognized in its fullest sense, one comes to understand that the individual is actually made for community. Dietrich von Hildebrand highlights that,“Community can never be understood if the individual person is not grasped in the full depth of his being, nor can the individual person ever be fully understood if his capacity for sustaining communities and his fundamental orientation to community are not grasped.” (2) True community is a direct participation in man’s fulfillment.
When man is closed off to others, isolation sets in. Believing that you can do everything on your on and avoiding weakness creates a tainted view of oneself. In reality, everyone has weaknesses because humanity is flawed. The truth is I didn’t make myself, and I cannot do everything on my own. Communities also create an awareness that individualism ignores. It makes you more aware of particular issues that may affect yourself and others.
Community provides man with a necessary space to flourish because it speaks to our own humanity. We were not created to be alone.
Each day we experience an array of societal pressures. We are promised with happiness if we are to become a certain size, dress a certain way, and attain a certain wealth status. With the strong emphasis on me, the collective we is often overlooked. The unhealthy elevation of the individual is projecting a false understanding of community. In its fullest sense, when the truth of the person is recognized and understood, community is an avenue to man’s fulfillment. Isn’t it much more attractive to be a flourishing whole rather than a floating fraction?
Are you bowling alone?
1. Image One
2. Dietrich von Hildebrand, My Battle Against Hitler, 388
3. C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
4. Image Two