The One and the Many, Being and Interbeing: The Trinity as a Model for Human Life (from 1/22)
Individualism and collectivism have had much to say about how humans work and should function. Both are true and neither has said enough. This is why I think the trinity is a great model—or metaphor—for humanity.
Individualism says that we are all unique, distinct, even independent persons. Collectivism says that the whole of our tribe, our shared being is greater than the some of the parts. To both ways of being and to the felt paradox, I say, “YES!” It’s time now to unpack this with the help of the trinitarian model.
In Christianity, the doctrine of the trinity states that God is one God with three distinct persons. Each person of the trinity is fully God (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit), yet they are not separate gods unto themselves. The Father is not the Son and so on, and all are God. In the trinity there is both distinction of persons and a shared identity (God). The persons of the trinity are not just attributes or character traits, they are persons, whole and unique unto themselves. Born and raised a Christian, I’ve sat with this paradox since my young life, accepting it as a mystery to be lived with rather than a theological loose end to tie down. Now, I think that mystery, that paradox, that combination of two asymmetrical views of God is also a great aid to seeing humanity.
Each person is unique, we are many. While we are all assemblies of the same matter and the same energy, each person has a unique essence. As no snowflake is exactly the same, no human being (or any creature) is exactly the same. We each have a unique essence, an aura, a personality. We are persons, distinct unto ourselves. In taking ownership of my own personhood and action, I have power to be the person I desire to be in the world. The actions I take are my actions, and ultimately no one makes me take them but me. Whatever powers or pressures in the world I perceive, I perceive through my own perspective, my own filter. My imagination creates my reality unique unto me. I am a person.
We all are one, no one is separate. Everything anyone does affects the whole, from our actions to our emotions. Together, we co-create the experience of life. More than that, our very being is shaped by the beings we are with. As a child, I learn, grow, even assemble my identity based on my presence and interactions with others, shaping me and them both intrinsically and dynamically. The culture we are a part of shapes each one of us, even as it is each one of us that creates that culture. Our being is deeper and greater than any one of us such that to call any one of us a human being is not enough, we are human being.
There is more to be said on this, more to explore and unpack. The trinity is a fine metaphor for facing both our oneness and our manyness. How do you acknowledge those asymmetrical aspects of our being?