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The Rainbow

I saw a rainbow the other night.  There was a thunder storm in my area, and as the storm broke, the sun was just about to set.  The rainbow was a full arc and spanned the whole sky.  It was so perfect I wanted to check if there really was a pot of gold at one of its ends.

We all know that a rainbow is made up of each one of the colors of the spectrum, but when you see a rainbow it’s not the individual colors that stand out to you the most.  It’s the effect from the rainbow as a whole.  The rainbow that I saw was beautiful, but I wasn’t that focused on each individual color, even though I knew they were there.

It’s a paradox that every whole is made up of individual parts.  Without the pieces you have no whole, but without the whole the pieces have no place to display themselves.  What would it be like to see a “rainbow” that was simply an arc of green?  It would certainly get our attention, and yet, there would be something strange about it.  Instead of feeling a sense of beauty we would wonder why green was all by itself, even if the green were particularly magnificent.

On the other hand, what if all the colors mixed together?  The rainbow would be a strange shade of gray/brown, its individual pieces dulled and the beauty of the whole diminished.

It’s easy to think that to be an individual is to be separate, and that being a part of a group is to be in oneness.  And that these two things are opposites; that you have to choose one or the other.  But this is just not the case.  The best place for an individual to shine is within the group.

There, the individual does the thing that they do best (which is necessarily unique) and gives that thing to the whole.  When the other individual pieces do the same thing, the whole becomes more than just the individuals.  It becomes a thing in and of itself, but only when the pieces are committed to shining individually.

We suffer from the idea that focusing on yourself, doing what you love to do, and shining as an individual hurts the group.  Wrong.  The group needs individuals who shine bright.  When the pieces fulfill their particular role, then the group can operate as if one being.

Red and Yellow expect each other to shine as brightly as they can in their own way.  Yellow does not try to be like Red and Red does not try to be Yellow.  Likewise, they don’t sacrifice their brilliance because the other can’t be the way that they can.  It is expected that Yellow will be Yellow and Red will be Red.  This is how the rainbow works.

When the colors shine as brightly as they can by themselves (but together), the rainbow exists.  If they were to tone down their brilliance (in a well meaning gesture not to offend the other colors), the rainbow would cease.

Make it your intention to shine brightly for the whole. You owe it to others.  🙂

Do you find it difficult to act as an individual and to also be part of a group?  Can these two things exist at the same time?  Feel free to share your answers in the comments.

Published inInspiration


  1. First of all, I LOVE rainbows. In fact, I have a picture of one on my site today too! I was lucky enough to see one the other day and I literally squealed with joy. It was great. What’s also great is this post. You make some excellent points here about individuality and being part of a group. I definitely have a hard time being a part of a group and do, at times, feel like I am sacraficing something, a part of me, when I am not doing things on my own. But I think the rainbow is a great example to look at because you need to have all of the colors to make it truly beautiful AND none of the colors loses its value simply because it is near the others. I really loved this post. Thanks for writing it. 🙂

    Positively Present’s last blog post..rainy days and mondays…

  2. Amanda Linehan Amanda Linehan

    Hi Positively Present – Yeah, I saw your rainbow picture earlier 🙂 I think it’s difficult to know how to be your best as an individual and be a part of the group. They seem to be opposites, but I think the rainbow tells us that this is not true. 😉

  3. Amanda,

    This is a beautiful post and I did tweet it. I hope others will read it because they’ll be glad they did. I loved how you used the rainbow metaphor…it was perfect. My favorite line was, “The group needs individuals who shine bright. ” It made me think of candles — one provides light, but many light up the room.

    In answer to your question, I think it’s important that individuals learn to be part of a group, especially as humans. We have so much more synergy and power when we join together than when we stay apart. That said, I tend to be shy and sometimes it is hard to join in a group, but when I do, I usually learn something new.

    Thanks for sharing this with us:~)

    Sara’s last blog post..To Boldly Go Anger Free

  4. Amanda Linehan Amanda Linehan

    Hi Sara – Thanks for the tweet! You’re right about the “synergy and power” we get as part of a group. I think those are perfect words in fact. Displaying our unique talents is much brighter when we are contributing towards a community. 🙂

  5. Michael Michael

    Can these two things exist at the same time?

    Perhaps not. I think it’s similar to the phenomenon often referred to as quantum weirdness. When we observe the wave-like qualities of photons, their particle-like properties cease to exist; and when we observe their particle-like qualities, their wave-like qualities cease to exist. It is as if our conscious expectations influence the nature of what we observe.

    Similarly, I believe that when we see ourselves merely as individuals, we limit our identity to definite points in time and space – and we have a very finite existence; but when we recognize ourselves as one with all, our individual nature melts away and self become less finite and limited.

  6. Amanda Linehan Amanda Linehan

    Hi Michael – Yes, there is a “finiteness” to being an individual. One day I will no longer be here regardless of what I do. Seeing yourself as part of “One” certainly goes beyond the boundaries of yourself as just an individual. But my question still is – what is One made up of? And the answer I’m coming to now is – all of us as our individual selves. This is a tough question and one I’ll probably give some thought to for some time. Thanks for your ideas.

  7. I’m not sure if you noticed, but I posted a link to this post on my blog today. I wrote about rainbows and thought my readers might want to read your great post too. As I said before, I really loved this! You can check out what I wrote over at PP in the post “ray-bans and rainbows…”

    Positively Present’s last blog post..ray-bans and rainbows: seeing life through a happy lens

  8. Amanda Linehan Amanda Linehan

    Hi Positively Present – I just read your post! Thanks a lot for the link!

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