Monday, July 31, 2006

Is Independence an Illusion?

Independence has always been my streak. Striking out on my own after listening to a different tune has always been an alluring beat to dance to. If I was to define my personality, independence would likely be an adjective at the top of the list. Just ask my mom! She would regale you with a story about taking me to school on the first day of kindergarten and me informing her that I would make it home for lunch on my own. No need to pick me up. Yup, as much as I enjoy being social, I am also content to hang out on my own.

However, is that really independence? Can one really be independent in the way that we define it? Autonomy, freedom and self-sufficiency are all synonymous with this state of being. It's obviously a preferred state...........not relying on others for our personal well-being........forging ahead alone and figuring things out all by ourselves..........

This notion is flawed. Sure we strive to accomplish goals and tasks on our own, but independence is an illusion. Consider someone like Bill Gates or Donald Trump. Consider a Prime Minister or President. Consider a successful novelist or artist, who though work mostly alone in their creative moments, rely on others for many facets of their artistic process. Gates and Trump couldn't be successful without support from family, colleagues, and the employees who make their "dreams" a reality. A politician may be at the top of his or her political hill, but they needed thousands of people to help them along the way.

It's funny how we tend to forget or deny the fact that if we live in a society, we depend on one another. We are all connected for various reasons and at various levels of attachment. It doesn't matter how stylishly rich or important you think you depend on the community, be it local or global............for services, safety, support, friendship.......gee everything from dry cleaning to dog training. And yet, we consider dependence as weak?

Dependence connotes an person dependent on another -- one family dependent on social assistance -- one public housing unit dependent on subsidized services from the government -- one elderly person dependent on their nursing care in a senior's home. The person, family or community that feels a sense of dependence more times than not feel a depletion in their self-worth. And, that's sad. But, once the scales tip to "favour" the giver, it's very difficult to tilt it back to evenness.

What we should be striving for is more of a balanced interdependence in our society, and an acknowledgement of the fact that true interdependence is the foundation of a functioning, healthy society. Funny, present day economic and political thinking projects the absurd idea that although members of a society depend on one another for goods and services, they can more or less conduct their business completely independently of each other, neither noticing nor caring for the needs of other people. How flawed is this? This is not an arrangement that will lead to greater freedom, health, or happiness. No, it will only lead to the inability to communicate and relate with one another. It will lead to anarchy through disrespect and individual self-promotion.

This isn't rocket science. Our well being and our survival depends on the interdependence with other people. Sure depending on people means asking for takes one to trust as well as to be aware that every now and then, you're going to feel vulnerable if you're on the receiving end. It may also mean a may have to do things for someone that you may not like. You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours.

Yes, we are all lucky to feel a sense of independence, self-sufficiency, freedom, autonomous ............liberated because we have been able to rely on the love and support of others and on our faith. Interactions with the people in our neighbourhood, with the people you meet during the course of your day, with family and friends......................all provide sustenance and connectivity that allow us to have both roots and wings. We need both. You can't fly without direction. You can't fly without fueling up every now and then.

Staunch independence is an illusion. Imbalanced dependence is unhealthy. Interdependence is what we must strive for because it is interdependence that feeds empathy, understanding, compassion, happiness and a sense of belonging. What can be more important?

"As long as there is poverty in the world I can never be rich, even if I have a billion dollars. As long as diseases are rampant and millions of people in this world cannot expect to live more than twenty-eight or thirty years, I can never be totally healthy, even if I just got a good checkup at the Mayo Clinic. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the way our world is made. No individual or nation can stand out boasting of being independent. We are all interdependent." - Martin Luther King


Sunny said...

You are an amazing and insightful person who just caused an epiphany to occur in my head! I also considered myself to be independant and beat myself up when I was feeling vulnerable and needed help. Not anymore!!! I know have opened my eyes to the fact that we are all interdependant upon each other. Martin Luther King is a hero of mine and this is a wonderful quote for inspiration. It seems he is not the only person ahead of his time...thank you for your uplifting words of inspiration and motivation today and everyday.

awareness said...

Why thank you sunny lady!

I'm humbled and flattered. Enjoy your day.......AND if you need any help......just yell loudly. I'll hear you and come running! :)

I'll do the same!

X said...

I love your blog btw!

I think you can be independant but have a great support system. That;s how my life works anyways, and it's been great so far :)

Rainbow dreams said...

A great post - wise and insightful - in my mind interdependence and community go hand in hand
I wonder though if that is different to then using the support we have as a spring board to reach others - that once we are supported we can be braver and go further... and that is what is called independence perhaps?
Thanks for this

awareness said...


I believe independence is a state of mind and can only be experienced if one feels a strong sense of confidence and self-worth. I was very lucky in that I have had a strong support system (and have been a part of support systems for others). Because of that, I too feel the confidence to use it as a springboard.......

But, we're always connected ... always supported. We may not conciously rely on them during our day to day ventures, but they are always there rooting for us, as we are for others.

I still believe it's interdependence.

Cue.....mmmmmmm I'm gonna try with a little help from my friends.

Thanks for the compliment leftfield.

Welcome Rainbow dreams. I will visit your site too.


Scott said...

Thanks for coming out of the shadows on my blog. Your comment from yesterday really gave me something to think about as well. Thanks for that!

Now your blog here is great. I too think that true independence is an illusion. For that you would have to move to a desert island and fend for yourself. I am not sure that i would want to be that independant.


The Harbour of Ourselves said...

for some reason the words of bruce springsteens painfully beautiful angst ridden 'independence day' consume my thoughts - particularly the lines:

'Now I don't know what it always was with us
We chose the words, and yeah, we drew the lines
There was just no way this house could hold the two of us
I guess that we were just too much of the same kind

Well Papa go to bed now it's getting late
Nothing we can say can change anything now
Because there's just different people coming down here now
and they see things in different ways
And soon everything we've known will just be swept away

So say goodbye it's Independence Day
Papa now I know the things you wanted that you could not say
But won't you just say goodbye it's Independence Day'

the tension between the needing to be free and yet belong to community is one of life's great mysteries, and i for one have no fucking clue how to reconcile that with my soul....

great blog!!!

Ellen said...

I never get disappointed when I come over here to read. You always have the most fascinating subject matters, because they make me rethink my present status.

We do become dependent on others for gratification and vindication of our actions.... it's what keeps us in line, and is a major part of our personal check and balance system. We may make a lot of independent decisions on our own, but we always need the feedback of others, no matter how independent we claim to be.
Nothing wrong with that, and it usually works to our advantage as long as it's constructive critisism.

I've always fancied myself to be independent, but know it's more of a co-dependent thing with me. After all, it takes a village.....

awareness said...

Welcome Scott......

yeah, I'm with you. I wouldn't want to live without others around in a desert...... I'd rather be "independent" with a little help from my friends. :)

Thank you for the compliments and comments

Harbour.....welcome. Independence Day.....the lyrics are powerful....the anticipation of separation? Being alone and nothing will change that? Thank you for sharing them. I now want to go listen to the music behind the lyrics. I'm a late comer to Springsteen, but his latest releases, Devils and Dust and the Seeger Sessions are frequently playing in the car when I'm driving around the countryside visiting clients. Can't seem to get enough of them.
Thank you for dropping in.

OH, and if I figure out the special recipe for that balancing act you refer to? I'll let you know...after I patent it!!

Hi Ellen. You are my constant and my "gauge" ........what I mean is that there are MANY times when I get an idea in my head and start writing about it, I often end up off on a tangent and a direction that I was unaware I was taking until I write it. Consequently, I often don't feel confident that I have captured the essence of the topic the way I want to........(ie. is it linear?) Your comments and feedback allows me to relax a more confident in my attempts.

One day, you and I are going to meet. Don't know how or when, but it's a destiny thing.

Ellen said...

It's kind of funny, but I do the very same thing when writing. If I don't focus, I'm off to the races with no horse in sight. I am a true independent at that point, because everything else has abandoned me.... including my senses. It is then that polishing and editing play a heavy role in getting the job done... and that might take hours. My archives hold quite a few stories I've started, but can't find an end to. Oh the pressure!!

We are kindred, and it is destiny that our paths will cross.... besides, we still have that beach vacation waiting for us!

awareness said...

Yes, Ellen.

A beach, lobster and destiny all figure prominently!