While aimlessly searching the notes for singles and albums from the band Pink Floyd, I came across a very touching quote from Pink Floyd member David Gilmour about his deceased bandmate Richard Wright: “Well, Rick is gone. This is the last thing that’ll be out from us. I’m pretty certain there will not be any follow up to this. And Polly, my wife, thought that would be a very good lyrical idea to go out on. A way of describing the symbiosis that we have. Or had… I didn’t necessarily always give [Wright] his proper due. People have very different attitudes to the way they work and we can become very judgmental and think someone is not quite pulling his weight enough, without realising that theirs is a different weight to pull .” David Gilmour, an immensely talented but also immensely difficult man, sang often about the burden of communication, a problem that occurred continually in his complicated life. He demanded much of himself within his band, and demanded a great deal of others as well, making the work of Pink Floyd monumentally difficult for themselves at times. Certainly, I can empathize with the continual struggle over communication.
Yet this particular musing from a well-known musician also reminded me of one of the most noted passages from the Apostle Paul about the burdens we each bear. Galatians 6:1-5 reads as follows: “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load.” Much of this passage is not difficult in the least to understand—we should be merciful in restoring others with a realistic understanding of our own flaws and weaknesses. Yet at its core this passage depends on a proper understanding of the difference between one’s load and one’s burden. We are all to carry our own load—we each have a certain responsibility to deal with, our own purpose to fulfill, and these responsibilities are our own to handle, and no one else’s. We cannot cast off our responsibilities so that we can live carefree lives while burdening others. However, we are to carry each other’s burdens in the knowledge that it is through love for each other that we lighten the heavy weight that crushes every shoulder. Being terribly conscious of my own burden, so too I glimpse the weight others are crushed by as well. Each one’s weight is different, but the crushing nature of it is consistent and universal. None of us was meant to carry our burdens alone, even if all of us have a proper role and responsibility to uphold.
It just so happens that I was reading today a book that reminded me of the different sort of burdens placed on people based on their position in life . As an American citizen, I tend to behave, sometimes to my own hurt, according to a consistent set of principles that spring from American history and political philosophy. Among these are a fairly radical egalitarianism and a high degree of respect for the freedoms of others to act as long as they please so long as they behave towards me with proper respect. America’s freedom is owed at least in part to the fact that our political culture grew to maturity in a great deal of isolation from the core of Great Britain, in a distance that limited London’s ability to control what was going on in the colonies, so that by the time the attempt was made to make America into the state of a docile dependency it was too late to arrest the pull towards autonomy and eventually independence. The development of the capacity for freedom across a wide span of society is a precarious matter. It requires often a great deal of time—witness the centuries between the Magna Carter and the 19th century reform acts that gradually turned England from a Norman preserve of haughty and arrogant monarchs to a constitutional monarchy with a fairly egalitarian political culture even with its fine manor houses and love of the pageantry of monarchy.
Unfortunately, the drift towards equality and freedom can be arrested when it is too threatening to those in power. Where the physical distance between people is small but their social distance is high, the level of threat that one person can cause another can rapidly rise to the point where genuine freedoms are impossible because of the state of fear that exists between them. This fear can often be mutual—two people or two groups of people, neither of whom wishes to harm the other, can easily be made afraid of the intentions of the other if they are simply across an unbridgeable gulf over which open and honest communication is impossible. Such a gulf, by cutting us off from the love and concern of others, only makes our own burdens heavier. Elites who are insecure about their own positions or the respect they are held in are not likely to grant the common folk they rule over any great freedom of expression, especially where it differs from their own views or acts against their own interests. It is difficult to make elites feel secure when one does not feel secure about one’s own position, receiving the respect one is due, and having the opportunity to fulfill one’s deepest and most heartfelt longings. Yet rather than finding if there exists possible scenarios by which everyone can be secure and everyone’s well-being and interests can be meant, all too often we are merely insecure and frustrated alone but together, unable to reach out to help others with their own burdens, being demanding and judgmental towards how others are pulling their own weight. And we are all the losers when this happens, whether in a band, or in a family, or in a church, or in our world as a whole.
 The Guardian music staff (9 October 2014). “Pink Floyd’s The Endless River: ‘This is the last thing out from us'”. The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 27 April 2015.