“Who would you be but who you are?”
― Terry Brooks
We, as human beings, define individuals as being separate and distinct from a group because of their differences. Individuals can cause the rest of the community to feel uneasy by testing the norms of the society or from just a simple change.
They are not bound to the rules of society and dominate their personal goals and beliefs. In our society, it is natural to look down on these individuals based on decisions they made or any flaws they may have.
Yet we encourage self-expression and the idea of being unique. Why is that? And how is an individual actually related to a community?
For Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, she is shunned and humiliated by the townspeople as a result from committing adultery. Because of the Puritan community she is surrounded by, she is an individual. Because of her decision, she is looked down upon and must constantly carry around a living reminder of her sin, Pearl. But Hester doesn’t change for them.
Hester is a perfect example of individuality to me and how ultimately, this community in the novel needs Hester. Without Hester, the community won’t be able to see the consequences of such a sin and know what NOT to do.
Despite the how the townspeople perceive Hester, the author seems to look at Hester in a new light. In Chapter 2, Hawthorne glorifies and emphasizes the appearance of the Scarlet Letter on Hester by describing it “in fine red cloth, surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold-thread.” Compared to the townspeople in the story, like Hawthorne, I also believed that Hester’s differences from the townspeople could be portrayed in a beautiful way, making her stand out from the rest. The sin doesn’t define who Hester is and is not a depiction of her identity.
In our society, just like how the sin defined Hester for the townspeople, our grades and the types of classes we take often define who we are by colleges, our parents, and even ourselves.
However, many other individuals strive to be a part of the community and want to be included. Some individuals don’t want that feeling of being different from the rest and would rather choose to conform to society.
For Dimmesdale, he continued to avoid punishment and hid his sin as a secret to avoid the consequences from the town that Hester had to face. But in the long run, he won’t be able to fake it for that long. As a minister, he preached about not doing a sin he committed. But the more he preached, the more he suffered. He lacked the strength and honesty Hester had in order to become that individual.
We join clubs and sports teams to connect with people that share a common interest, so that we don’t feel different and apart from the rest. For example, the club MSA is linked together by their culture and their religion. These individuals come together to form a team or community.
In “Walking the Path between Worlds” by Lori Arviso Alvord, she describes the individual souls of the outside, non-Indian world looking to connect with other people through societies, clubs, and other groups. To them, being a tribe means something much more than just to be a family and this adds to sense of the importance of the community.
In Robert D. Putnam’s “Health and Happiness”, he argues that the social interaction between people affects health. If we increase the communication among people, they will be less likely to suffer health issues. The ones who have close friends, neighbors and co-workers are less likely to be sad, lonely, have low self-esteem, or problems eating and sleeping. Basically, Putnam is saying how community and the sense of belonging is overall beneficial to the well-being of humans.
For me, when I think of an individual and a community, I picture several individuals coming together to form a community in a positive way. For example, words that make up a sentence, sentences that make up a paragraph, or the individual notes that make up the musical piece are communities.
When I first joined the Fountain Valley Percussion Ensemble, I was an individual. I had no idea what I was doing or what a marimba even was. Everyone already had friends and more than 2 years of experience under their belt. As the indoor drumline season progressed with more rehearsals and competitions, all the individuals started to become one, a community. We always repeated the phrase, “Everybody, all the time,” emphasizing the importance of our community.
Every individual must contribute something to the community because the percussion activity is defined by every single member and his or her contribution to it. We all know that the progress is a product of the efforts pitched in by everyone and that it is rare that we may ever have the opportunity to be a part of something beyond the individual.
“Strength lies in differences, not in similarities”
― Stephen R. Covey