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Our American culture is famously and proudly individualistic, partly a reaction to and flight from the oppressive class systems of the Old World. We should surely be grateful for the great leap of faith, strongly influenced by John Locke's utilitarian individualism, that made our democracy possible. But as the Greeks say, "moderation in all things." Any individualism must be tempered with an understanding of, and even a celebration of, our interconnectedness. We find meaning not only in our own experience, but in our relationships--our friends, our families, our colleagues, our neighbors.

Thus Martin Luther writes his A Mighty Fortress in first person plural--it is our God, our Fortress, our Helper, not merely my God. Britten celebrates the International Red Cross by telling the Good Samaritan story, which calls us to love of our neighbor. We Americans, while enamored with individualism, also instinctively know that "no man is an island," that we are enriched by our community -- and that we all too often fall short by defining that community too narrowly.

Surely that is an especially troubling problem in our society today, as we hear leaders uttering scorched earth denigrations of opposing views, and we see polls showing public sentiment has swung so far toward distrust and polarization amongst ourselves within our own country, and state, and locality.

From the first piece of next weekend's concert, hope, faith, life, love, truth, dream, joy, soul, to the final This Little Light of Mine, from Shakespeare's speech for Thomas More, advocating for the strangers among us, to Oscar Romero's impassioned call for courage, generosity, and peace, our Choral Arts Ensemble singers and Great River Shakespeare actors will try to create beauty and positivity, and hope to inspire all our neighbors--and ourselves--to seek truth, show compassion, and embrace community.

The artist forges himself to the others,

midway between the beauty he cannot do without and the community he cannot tear himself away from.

That is why true artists scorn nothing: they are obliged to understand rather than to judge.

--Albert Camus

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