Have you ever seen a one-man-band? After strapping various musical instruments to his body, he begins to make music by simultaneously playing them all. When done well it is impressive: one person doing everything. Yet, it is more of an athletic accomplishment than a musical event . . . more side show than concert. One-man-band music does not top the charts and is not purchased on iTunes because what is memorable is the novelty not the music produced.
Too many of us buy into the idea that we have to do it all – that we have to do everything well without breaking a sweat and always looking like things are under control. I think this springs from a distorted understanding of independence.
In the name of autonomy and individualism we can fall into trying to live our lives like a one-man-band. It takes a lot of extra work. Although we may hit all the notes, without community we can’t make beautiful music.
I think we were created by a community for community – to be with the people in our lives. We were designed for engagement more than isolation. To live full lives we must rely on others and others must be able to rely on us. Depending on others can be messy and scary – they will let us down. Yet, building walls to protect ourselves from the rough edges of community condemns us to a life of lonely rugged individualism.
What would happen if we admitted that we cannot do it all – that we cannot be our own harmony? Instead of playing every instrument, what if we learned to play the instrument of our lives with excellence and relied on other people to play theirs? We would find moments of symphony instead of a disengaged life of fragmented solos. Living in community rescues us from the self-imposed pressure of living like a one-man-band.