30 April 2011


I find it pretty interesting to see just how invested our cultures are in teaching us to be independent and self-sufficient, while the reality of the situation of our lives is that we are interdependent creatures.  We all have connections with each other, but in our quest for complete independence we neglect those connections in favor of development of self.  And while I don’t see a problem with developing ourselves–in fact, it’s one of the most important things we can do–I think we create great problems when we develop ourselves while neglecting to develop our connections with others.

Is it possible to overvalue our independence?  I think it is.  In the United States, for example, this tendency seems to have developed during our Pilgrim and pioneer days, when self-sufficiency often was the only way that one could survive.  In this day and age, though, that particular dynamic definitely is out-dated–as far as our needs are concerned, all of our basic needs are within our reach simply and easily.  Still, though, we seem to fear acknowledging our needs for other people and our connections to them.  We hold back from allowing those connections to strengthen out of some sort of fear that we’ll lose our independence and be “stuck” with other people.

But are we really stuck with them, or are we given the gift of their company and their love?  If we let go of ourselves and our perceived needs in favor of giving our all to our community–however we define it–are we sacrificing our independence and our individuality and our self-sufficiency, or are we gaining a strength that we simply can’t imagine, the strength that comes from experiencing and celebrating our connections with other creations of our Creator, other children of God–whatever you perceive   God to be–who are sharing this wonder of life on this wonderful planet of ours?

If we can simply acknowledge that our lives will become richer as we establish, maintain, and develop our relationships with other human beings, we can set ourselves free from the curses of loneliness, isolation, and the feeling of not belonging.  If we can celebrate our connections with others then we can see the beauty and wonder of our lives, we can experience the joys of helping and being helped, and we can live as parts of a much greater whole.

It does take some sacrifice, such as giving up the need to do everything ourselves.  That doesn’t mean, though, that we’ll lose the feeling of having done a job well or the feeling of accomplishment that can come just as well from having shared a job and done it well with someone else.  We would have to sublimate our egos as we develop a sense of community–after all, the ego’s main job is to tell us that we’re alone in the world and separate from everyone else.

But God didn’t make just one person–God made us all.  And given that fact, how can we possibly think that living our lives separate and isolated from our fellow human beings is the right way to go?  As life goes on and I learn more, I see more and more that it’s about togetherness, compassion, love, and many other things that all imply the presence of someone else.  Yes, personal development is important, but isn’t it most important in the context of how we use it to help others?  I hope that when all is said and done, my life is about contributing to others rather than developing myself while keeping others out of my life.  I hope that yours is, too, for I know that if it is, your life will be rewarding and fulfilling.

We cannot live only for ourselves.  A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men and women; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.

Herman Melville

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