A Culture of Individualism and Minimalism

New York Times bestselling author of the Rhythm of Life, Matthew Kelly, in his book Rediscover Catholicism highlights three prevailing philosophies of this century in Chapter 2 of Part One which does not make us become a-better-version-of-ourselves.

The first is Individualism. This stresses on the tendency of people to seek assurance of personal profit from any task or venture before they make up their minds to undertake that cause. The second is Hedonism. This highlights the height to which we place deriving pleasure over what is pure and noble. As long as it feels good, just do it. The last which is Minimalism, focuses on the least we would want to do and still be great people. This does not make us give our full commitment to a cause and breeds mediocrity.

These three philosophies are a serious threat to our growth as people who have been called out of the world into the glorious light to pursue righteousness and seek the Kingdom of God above all else. However, I would want to focus on two of these modern philosophies: Individualism and Minimalism.

Tobit, in the book of Tobit 1:3 was a righteous man and one of the marks that is highlighted is that he performed many acts of charity. During the feast of Weeks or the festival of Pentecost, he was served a very fine dinner (Tobit 2:1). However, he did not immediately set about to feast but sought to share the occasion with those who were not well to do in the community by asking his son to go out in search of any poor man who served the Lord (Tobit 2:2). After a report came from his son that a man lay dead in the street, Tobit removed his body to keep in one of his rooms that he may bury the following morning (Tobit 2:3,4).

Tobit did not seek his personal gain but was eager to share what he received even with people he did not know. Secondly, he sought to do the most that he could to help others to the extent of keeping a man beaten to death in his home to bury later, a corporal work of mercy. Clearly, he made a difference in his community by defeating the philosophies of Individualism and Minimalism.

Sadly, we too have embraced these philosophies. Before we seek to help someone out or undertake even the smallest task, we always ask, ‘What will you give me in exchange?’ At other times too, when we have been placed in charge of an organisation or in an office of authority, we seek the simplest and easiest way out. We do not want to fully commit ourselves to that cause and do it to our maximum best. When it is even a society or ministry in the Church, then it is even worse. We treat our role carelessly and fail to show a sense of dedication. We even express surprise when others give off their very best and scorn them asking whether that organisation or society is their private property or belongs to their relative.

Tobit gave off whatever he had and was willing to share whatever he received without seeking first his personal gain. He was looking to do the very best possible in any situation no matter how little. Let us allow Tobit to inspire us to defeat these two modern philosophies that breeds selfishness and mediocrity. We can and should become the people God created us to be by abandoning ourselves to His divine will so that His grace will mould us accordingly.