On Independence Versus Interdependence

A Fresh PerspectiveActivismConsciousnessFreedomIntentional LivingLiving in CommunityLiving in Service and VolunteeringMinimalismPersonalSharing Resources / CommunitySimple LivingSustainable Living

When many people see what I am doing, the word independence comes to mind. There is so much that I have done to foster and practice the skills of independence. Much of this independence is a result of holding a value system that does not align with much of mainstream society, including the US government and politicians, corporations, the educational system, the healthcare system, the military, the police and so much more.

When I first awoke to the reality that the American dream is the world’s nightmare, I wanted independence from all of this. I wanted to break free from the destruction, the exploitation and the oppression, both as a victim and perpetrator, by being a part of these systems and structures. I yearned to break free and operate independently from all of this. Over the years, I have fostered many skills of independence, skills that allowed me to live in closer harmony with Earth. Skills such as growing my own food, foraging for food, living simply in a tiny house, cycling long distances, building such as a tiny house, making my own clothes, repairing items, harvesting rainwater, composting, even composting my own poop and the list goes on and on.

So much of what I have been doing are life-designs to help me break free from these systems that I did not support and replace my actions with ways of being that are in alignment with Earth, with our greater humanity and with the plants and animals that we share this home with. At first, the term self-sufficiency was something that I quite liked and that I was striving for, as well as independence. Independence has been important to me since childhood, and to some degree, every single human being has a basic need for independence, for autonomy and for freedom.

Today, independence is still important to me; but from the bigger picture, I see independence as an illusion. We have been taught by society that this nation fought for its independence and that it became an “independent” nation. We have been taught that we as individuals should be able to earn money to buy everything that we need to not be dependent upon anyone else. We have been taught that we should be able to take care of ourselves fully and that it is a characteristic of incompetence to be dependent upon others. Those who are dependent on others in this society are often considered less meaningful and less important to society. Terms such as bum, mooch, or “drain on society” are often applied to people who depend on others for some of their needs. But the truth that I have come to believe is that we are all dependent. We are all dependent on Earth, we are all dependent upon each other, we are all dependent on the plants and animals that we share this Earth with.

Independence is the great delusion that has been forced into our minds by corporations and governments in a great state of hypocrisy. Where independence is generally believed to exist, there is generally a great level of exploitation and oppression in order to achieve it. As a society, we steal and manipulate for what we need through war, political control and the day-to-day business of mega-corporations. Then we call ourselves independent. Quite simply, just because something is stolen or manipulated away, rather than earned or exchanged through a relationship, does not make it independence.

Today, I do not strive to be independent; instead, I strive to be interdependent. In fact, I will clearly say that I want to be dependent on others. I am sure that for many to hear that, it may be unsettling. Why would he want to be dependent on others? I want to be dependent upon others because I believe it is the only way that we will create true community. I believe that true community comes when we actually need each other. It’s when we need each other for our safety and our security; it’s when we need each other for our food and our water; it’s when we need each other for our shelter; it’s when we need each other to meet our basic needs and resources to live and thrive. I believe as long as we believe that we can be independent that we’ll see fractured community and the community that does exist will exist because of the hidden exploitation and oppression of communities elsewhere.

Independence is a great illusion. The belief is that if we earn enough money, if we become millionaires, then we can be independent. We no longer need anyone else. But the truth is, behind every dollar we earn or spend, we are dependent upon someone else. Behind every product we purchase and behind every service that we utilize, we are dependent upon others. This dependence is hidden; this dependence is outsourced, and the truth is the more we depend on money, the less independent we actually are.

Today, I have no desire to be independent whatsoever. I have actually embraced being dependent upon others. I need other people in order to exist. I am dependent on others for my food, for my water, for the clothes that I wear. I am dependent on others for much of my meaning and purpose in life. I am wholly and completely dependent upon humanity and everything that came before me. Even more so, I am dependent upon Earth and everything that it provides: the food, the water, the air. I am dependent upon the plants and animals that I share this home with. Every breath that I take, every step that I take, every bite that I eat, I am dependent upon someone or something else. I am breaking free from the idea of independence and embracing the idea of interdependence – the concept we actually do need each other and that there is nothing inherently wrong with needing each other.

That is why I have gone as far as owning just 111 possessions or 44 possessions. Those were experiments in embracing my dependence on others. That is why I have traveled with no money, depending on the kindness of others. In difficult moments, I had to fully embrace that I am not an island and that I need others. I had to learn to ask for help in a society where it is often seen as acceptable to give, but not to receive. That is why I have been happy to live in a tiny house that I built in someone else’s backyard. That is me living in a mutually beneficial relationship through exchanging resources and skills rather than through a monetary transaction. That is why I grow food in other people’s front yards. This practice builds community and breaks down the separation created by individual land ownership. This is also why I have committed to earning below the federal poverty threshold. Each day I spend building relationships and skills rather than earning money. I have designed a balance of non-delusional independence and interdependency with humanity into my daily life. That is why I have learned to forage for much of my food. Instead of earning money, I am creating an interdependency with the plants and animals that I live with on this Earth. And through all of this, I am focused on reciprocity, on sharing, on mutuality and equity.

In a society that has been designed in a linear manner of extraction, of simply giving and taking rather than reciprocity, this is often hard to pull off. It’s often even harder for it to be understood by many people who have bought into the linear systems of extraction. I have chosen to go beyond the idea of transactions requiring both a giver and a receiver. A transactional form of interdependence could be that I grow your food and you provide me with land to live on. But when we step away from independence and we move towards interdependence, we start to see that it doesn’t have to be a give-and-take relationship. I am happy to give and give to a certain group of people and receive nothing in return. At the same time, I could also receive from people while I am giving nothing back to them directly.

This is the life that I have chosen to live. I do not give with the expectation of receiving, and I do not receive with the requirement that I have to give back in equal quantity. I do not keep track. Sure, at some times, there are likely people who have wished that I would have given them more in our interactions. And yes, I will be honest, there are times when I have given to others and I didn’t think that I had received enough in return. But my deep practice is to be living in a state of true giving; to be living in a state of abundance, to not keep track of who gives more and who gives less. With my life, I am building a state of interdependence into my being. I am consistently building community around me through giving, and I have trust and faith that my basic needs in life will be met in return. At the same time, I will give freely to help others meet their basic human needs as long as I am able to.

Many will have a hard time understanding this. Just as we have a war on bacteria and a war on “germs,” I have chosen to embrace them. I understand that there are more bacteria cells inside of me than there are human cells. This is an even deeper example of my interdependence. Without bacteria, I would cease to exist; life would be over without them. You see, independence is a great delusion, and I have chosen to break free from that delusion. Having grown up in a society that indoctrinated me on independence, I still have much work to do. I still have hypocrisies to overcome. But I have worked diligently to overcome this hypocrisy for the last decade, and I will continue to do so.

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