The Importance of the Individual

Some interesting emails with readers about Dokkodo, and the merits of a life of service.  Service is important, no doubt, But I still put the individual first.  After all, service of any kind is, eventually, for the benefit of individuals.  Sometimes one individual, sometimes billions.  But individuals, still.  Albert Einstein had some thoughts on this as well:

A man’s value to the community depends primarily on how far his feelings, thoughts, and actions are directed toward promoting the good of his fellows. We call him good or bad according to how he stands in this matter. It looks at first sight as if our estimate of a man depended entirely on his social qualities.

And yet such an attitude would be wrong. It is clear that all the valuable things, material, spiritual, and moral, which we receive from society can be traced back through countless generations to certain creative individuals. The use of fire, the cultivation of edible plants, the steam engine — each was discovered by one man.

Only the individual can think, and thereby create new values for society — nay, even set up new moral standards to which the life of the community conforms. Without creative, independently thinking and judging personalities the upward development of society is as unthinkable as the development of the individual personality without the nourishing soil of the community.

The health of society thus depends quite as much on the independence of the individuals composing it as on their close social cohesion.

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