While I may live in a time when most countries are no longer subject to the rule of law imposed by other countries, I also live at a time when the mainstream belief has been that independence for the individual is desirable and worth striving for. To be financially independent. To be independent at work. To have independent thought. To be independent has meant to be free, and to be free has meant to have choice.
The fight for independence, be it for a country or for a teenager, appears to be deeply ingrained in most of us. It may be a genetic predisposition coded into each of our beings. However in the pursuit of individual independence, we have run away from one another, and perhaps even run away from ourselves. Our pursuit of individual independence may have gone too far.
There is actually so much, and so many, that I depend on in this very moment.
This house that I am living in, someone had to design it, build it, and maintain it. I have been dependent on all of them.
This laptop that I am using to write and share my reflection, someone had to design, develop, manufacture, ship, package and test it. I have been dependent on all of them.
The meal that I just ate, the ingredients had to be grown, nurtured, picked, processed, packaged, transported, stocked and sold. I have been dependent on all of the people involved.
Upon further reflection, I can see that I have always been highly dependent on others.
My parents. For not only bringing me into this world, but also for raising me, providing for me and caring for me.
My friends and family. For support, companionship, lightness, perspective and growth. Most of all, for continuing to tolerate me, and all that it entails.
My teachers. For showing up, especially in those moments when I was clearly not interested or engaged. They have taught me so much, and continue to.
On you. For reading or listening to my reflections, and for sometimes reflecting back to me what you hear, feel or think.
My team. For doing what is asked of them, even at times when they may not agree. I have been away from work for the past week, screenless, phoneless, and have depended on them even moreso.
My clients. For continuing to do business with me, sharing feedback and ideas with my team and for paying their bills, so that I can pay mine.
The media. For helping keep me informed, inspired or entertained, on demand whenever I feel the desire to consume.
Strangers. For practicing physical distancing and helping minimize the spread of a deadly virus that disproportionately affects certain populations over others.
Within myself, there is also much that I am quietly dependent on.
I depend on the many organs in my body. My heart that pumps blood throughout my body. My lungs that enable me to breadth. My kidneys and liver that filter the fluids and toxins that circulate in my body.
I depend on my muscles, joints, tissues and bones, to help me move from here to there and to give me structure and support for my organs.
I depend on my senses. Sight, smell, sound, taste and touch all allow me the privilege of experiencing the material world, and also keep me safe.
I depend on my mind. To process information, generate thoughts, connect with emotions and much more.
It may be time for a new declaration. There are other forms of dependence than are more deserving of our attention and pursuit than individual independence.
Inner-dependence is more important than independence. So much of my experience of life is subject to my inner mental and emotional states. Thoughts, feelings, emotions, dreams, desires, values, beliefs and more all arise from or solidify in my inner states. I could spend all of my time and energy trying to rearrange the world outside of me. Try to change people, expect better outcomes at work, want a slightly different body, buy more stuff and so forth, and it would not make the slightest lasting difference if I did not realize how dependent I am on my inner states for happiness, joy, peace and satisfaction.
Intra-dependence is more important than independence. All of the happiness research clearly states that the quality and depth of our connections with others matters more than anything else. If I become the company that I keep, then the communities that I participate in and belong to will shape me more than anything. It is where I find models for what is acceptable, moral and ethical. It is where I find my identity. To be intra-dependent on friends and family is quite possibly the best thing that I can do for the protection and strength of my mental health and emotional wellbeing.
Inter-dependence is more important than independence. There are so many systems, structures and societies that without I would not function. Where independence breeds individualism, inter-dependence breeds cohesion, consistency and certainty. I cannot imagine a society where every individual was truly independent, making their own choices with little regard or respect for others. There are a shared set of values and cultural norms, not to mention a rule of law, that we all agree to mostly operate by. This is why we are all inter-dependent on one another in a functioning society.
In an age of pandemic, we must now learn how to rebuild communities, without the benefits of large gatherings. We must now learn how to rebuild understanding, without exposure to new people in public spaces. We must now learn how to rebuild connections, without close physical proximity.
Humankind has survived many wars, plagues, pandemics, recessions, and periods of political unrest. We have done so by prioritizing inter-dependence, intra-dependence and inner-dependence, not individual independence.
This understanding that I am highly dependent, as opposed to highly independent, cultivates a strong feeling of gratitude within my heart. I hope that a subtle flavour of gratitude can coat every word, interaction and privilege that I enjoy in life.
As a result of the pandemic, we have been taken to a Year Zero moment. Before Coronavirus (B.C.), there was a misguided belief that individual independence was our goal. After Coronavirus (A.C.), there is a growing recognition, at least within myself, that dependence is precious, desired and ultimately the true nature of our reality.