In physics, there is what is known as the “wave-particle duality” of photons. Sometimes, light behaves like a particle, and sometimes it behaves like a wave. It seems occasionally to simultaneously follow the rules for particles and waves! This confounds physicists (and me).
Recently, I have become aware that community is much like this. One might think that a community is just an aggregate of particles (individuals), and so it should behave like an aggregate of individuals. Another might think that a community is like a wave–it behaves like a single extended entity. These people will treat community differently; the first person will place ultimate foundation in each individual, and will argue that their motions (i.e., the influence of God’s will in their life, and their response) qua individuals define the epiphenomenal motions of the community at large. Those of the wave persuasion will argue conversely that God directs the community as a whole according to his will, and the motions of individual members follow like crests and troughs in a wave–all very connected.
It is hard to know within which paradigm I should be viewing community right now. Are we fundamentally separated, and therefore at the end of the day we must discern our calling from God as pertaining to ourselves alone? Or are we fundamentally connected, and must therefore all collectively submit our motions to the movement of the larger group?
Right now, it seems appropriate to view the motions of some as following the particle paradigm, and others as following the wave paradigm. Are we therefore separate entities (i.e., in separate communities)? Or are we exhibiting the true essence of community and just failing to describe it in classical sociological terms, exactly the same as physicists failed to describe quantum phenomena using Newtonian language?
We have been gathering data for a while now, but I think we still need some more. Anyone else have any data worth sharing?