In my last post, I explained why I am a rock. In this continuation, I am an island. I’ve always loved Paul and Art. More than they love each other, apparently. But, onto the topic at hand; I’m still thinking about what it means to be self-sufficient and whether it’s really all it’s cracked up to be. My thoughts were inspired by Robyn Peterman’s latest awesome book, Fashionably Hotter Than Hell, which features a protagonist (written in the first person point of view of a man—a different, fun twist ) who comes to realize that going it alone is not only lonely, but doesn’t get him where he wants to be. Us either.
In my last post, I addressed the underlying mistrust that motivates most of our unwillingness to lean on others for help and support. We figure no one can do it as well as we can, so we’ll do it ourselves – the right way, thank you very much. It turns out that this strategy is not so good, as most things in life really do take a village to accomplish successfully. So many of us are specialists these days, that a group effort is mandatory for most general activities, both personal and professional. But there is another aspect to the death grip we keep on our self-reliance: we hate to feel dependent, and most of us value our personal freedom more than anything. We are the masters of our own ship, and while we may take various elements, including others’ opinions, into account, in the end, when it comes to making our own decisions, the buck stops solely with us.
The crux of the issue is that none of us wants to feel dependent; we want to avoid the example of the poor, pathetic souls who are still attached to their mothers’ tits—at age 40. You know, the ones living in their parents’ basement, waiting for mom to cook dinner, pick out their clothes and wipe their butts. Or the other type of poor pathetic creatures who’ve sold their minds and their souls to the televangelist with the great hair and the boyfriend on the side. You know who I’m talking about. We don’t want to be dependent like they are.
And these are valid concerns. Unhealthy types of dependence are creepy. On the other hand, the illusion of independence that most of us maintain is about as real as the aliens in Area 51. We’re not independent, and that is that. Let me count the ways we are all kinds of dependent: first, let’s start with physical dependence. I don’t know about you, but my skill set revolves around mental activities like reading and writing and maybe analyzing things I read about (like this blog). My list of accomplishments does not include building shelters, catching my own food or finding clean water. When the apocalypse comes, I’m hoping to be among the first to go. I would fare badly in a world without electricity, Whole Foods and cars. Perhaps you’re different, but if not, we’re all dependent on the grid, cell phone towers, and the people who grow, kill, manufacture and distribute our food, not to mention Amazon, without which life would hardly be worth living.
So, we’re not so self-sufficient in the physical realm. How about our mental function? Well, if you think you’re not being manipulated by the marketing industry, think again. We’re all Stepford Wives, being told what to buy and where to buy it by the folks who rule the world through commerce and advertising. At this moment, I’m clothed head to toe in Lululemon athletic gear, and both my kids are making Under Armor rich. My wallet is clearly being controlled by Madison Avenue. The media influences the information we get to form our opinions. A handful of celebrity doctors, financial gurus, and lawyers heavily influence our opinions. Oh, and the NRA, apparently. So, how much are we really in business for ourselves, cognitively? We’ve all drunk the Kool-Aid. And while it’s true that some may lead enlightened lives, those beacons are few and far between and don’t have nearly as much influence as, say, Oprah.
And then there’s our compulsions, addictions and habitual stupidity. Two thirds of Americans eat too much. Many of us drink excessively. We watch too much TV and spend more time with our electronic devices than we do with our kids (and vice versa). In short, we are anything but self-reliant. We all have our favorite versions of our mother’s little helpers. And we’re highly dependent on them to keep us on an even keel—or at least prevent us from going under for the third time.
So what does all of this mean? It means we’re hypocrites. And that’s without a discussion about our lack of independence from what other people say about us and do to us, and how much that upsets our apple carts. We hand over our personal freedom without so much as a second thought when it comes to falling into a depression when we learn others are talking behind our backs. Or we dive into self-righteous anger and vengeance fantasies when someone does us wrong to our faces. That’s just another form of personal bondage.
But Heaven help us when someone suggests we should surrender ourselves to something bigger than we are. Oh, Nelly, that just won’t do at all, now will it? No way, no how, am I going to try to align my will with that of the Universe, or God or whatever Higher Power we subscribe to. Nope, not gonna happen, cause I’m an independent thinker, a self-sufficient entity. A rock. An island. I touch no one and no one touches me. I’m the head honcho of my own enterprise, and I’m not talking about NC-1701.
So let’s just say “no.” Let’s allow others in to help. Let’s open ourselves to something bigger than we are and try to serve the highest good in all that we do, not just look out for number one (and perhaps the additional few who we love). Let’s admit our deep dependence and lack of personal freedom and get over ourselves. Simon and Garfunkel were wrong, and John Donne was right. No one is an island, we’re all part of a larger whole. We’re all living on Pangaea. Best to start acting like it.