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Quotes on finding one's 'self' within community


It may be claimed that we are singularities...


"And it isn't a culture of individualism, but its lack, that makes for social tension. George Packer wrote of this in his book The Assassins' Gate about Iraq, where people's group identities overwhelmed their identities as individuals, with bloody results. In contrast, it is where people have a strong sense of themselves as individuals, rather than as subordinated to some larger social amalgam, that they can have a deep and genuine respect for other human beings, their individual worth, and their rights.
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Those who believe human evil has to be controlled by a powerful state may not have noticed that the worst evils ever perpetrated have been the projects of powerful governments--from the Inquisition to the Holocaust to the Gulag. This is why we need to hold the state in check, curbing the power of a few to work their will upon the many."
Frank S. Robinson. The Case for Rational Optimism. New Brunswick, N.J. and London: Transaction Publishers, 2009. p. 126, 138.

”We talk about couples as if there were such a reality. (The reality is that two single people choose to be together in certain ways.) Couples frequently say "we" a lot because that word somehow helps push away the reality of each person's individuality. ... It cannot be proven, for example, that the color you see when you look at the sky is the same color I see. We have merely agreed that whatever color each of us sees when we look at the sky will be called blue, and that works out fairly well. Accepting our singleness is the crucial first step toward understanding ourselves.”
Art Greer. The Sacred Cows are Dying: Exploding the Myths We Try to Live By. New York: Hawthorne Books, Inc., 1978. p. 27.


But we find our full meaning in community...


”Our identity is a pale shadow without the people in our lives. According to the Zulu saying, umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu: ‘A person is a person because of other people.’”
Christopher Gergen and Gregg Vanourek. Life Entrepreneurs: Ordinary People Creating Extraordinary Lives. Jossey-Bass, 2008.

“You can tell more about a person by what he says about others than you can by what others say about him.”
Newspaper columnist Leo Aikman, quoted in Bookreporter.com. Quoted in The Week, April 25, 2014. p. 17.

Cities both celebrate and erase difference. Cities are inclusive. They transcend the individual. And in so doing, they make all those strangers part of ourselves, of our own identity, our own self-category. And so we give blood, or open our homes, or race to get the wounded to the hospital. We aren’t being selfless. We are merely extending the concept of self in a way that the city makes natural. In moments of tragedy, we refuse both isolation and chaos. Instead, we put our identity as city dwellers — in this case, as Bostonians — first, and draw strength from a shared sense of self that we may not even have guessed existed."
“We are all Bostonians now.” Maria Konnikova. Boston Globe. April 21, 2013.

“...intuition is really a sudden immersion of the soul into the universal current of life, where the histories of all people are connected, and we are able to know everything, because it’s all written there.”
Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist, quoted in Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, Center City, Minn.: Hazelden Publishing, 2010.

“The internet is governed by incentives that make it impossible to be a full person while interacting with it. In the future, we will inevitably be cheapened. Less and less of us will be left, not just as individuals but also as community members, as a collective of people facing various catastrophes. Distraction is a ‘life-and-death matter,’ Jenny Odell writes in How to Do Nothing. ‘A social body that can’t concentrate or communicate with itself is like a person who can’t think and act.’”
“The I in the Internet,” Jia Tolentino. Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion. New York: Random House, 2019. pp. 37-38.


One risk, though, is that the self becomes performative...


”By the mid-seventeenth century, something strange had happened: the ideal of ‘courtesy’ had taken hold of the European imagination and the role of the nobleman changed forever. Radiating from the glittery hub of Louis XIV’s court in Versailles, European courtly life spawned a maze of mannerisms and rules of social etiquette which had to be strictly observed if one was to remain socially agile, to distinguish oneself, and to display clear markers of cultivation and wealth. These new rules extended to how and when one spoke, the kinds of things one revealed or kept hidden, the right turns of phrase, movements, and gestures, and ultimately the proper presentation of the elegantly adorned self to others — the birth of the performative self.”
R. Jay Magill, Jr. Sincerity: How a moral ideal born five hundred years ago inspired religious wars, modern art, hipster chic, and the curious notion that we all have something to say (no matter how dull). New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2012. p. 65.

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