Thursday, February 24, 2005


After stumbling across an episode of Richler & Inc dealing with the irony in much of today’s individualism, I have been reading I’m Special (sorry not available south of the border). Part of his premise is interesting. What are the consequences of making perceived individuality the new conformity? Here is one quote from the book: (pg 36)

In searching for tradition without the strictures that tradition used to entail, our society is altering the religious institutions we created to give meaning and order to our lives. Can we have a sense of tradition without traditional tradition? The new conforming individualists want exactly that. They want religious institutions to adapt to their needs, ambitions, and desires.

Kol Emeth is just one of many religious institutions meeting the needs of new generations of individualists who want to feel, but not necessarily be.

Earlier in the book Niedzviecki makes the point that today everybody has the desire to feel special. People want to see their lives as tending to something that makes them stand out. The irony comes because this individuality is used to become part of a group. In this case, a group of “non-conformists” of whatever persuasion one desires. According to him, what happens is that the individual still wants to belong to something. However that belonging is manifested not by conforming to established groups, but by having groups establish around themselves. In other words, the new individual expects to be able to change the world to make it accommodate them. Priest craft allusions aside, I think this has numerous interesting implications for religion. Are most religions just an established way of making the universe fit previous desires? Do some of our feelings of divine acceptance arise because we change our conception of god in much the same way individuals expect the world to change for them? Do our desires to have a superficial sense of uniqueness make it harder for the rare individual to be truly unique?

1 comment:

chris g said...

Here's another quote from the same section that summarizes many of the ideas.
"I realize that what the Kol Emeth congregants, and so many others, are looking for is no longer an adherence to a tradition but the feeling that tradition used to provide: a sense of belonging that is bigger than ourselves, the feeling that the ex-army fellow calls "the presence of God." We want that feeling, but we want it on our own terms."

So I guess this begs the question, how much of our focus on the presonal influence of the spirit arises from wanting a feeling of the presence of God on our own terms?