The Myth of Independence 2

The Myth of Independence 2

Yesterday we began to consider the Myth of Independence—that is, the belief that the strong succeed in life on their own— by pointing out the utter falsity of that notion in the face of reality.

Today we discuss other evidence that testifies against the Myth of Independence, because, after all, there seem to be many people who don’t have much of an ability to see what is right in front of their faces, and whose contact with reality is tenuous.

First we will see what religion and science have to say about this Myth. Then we will see that the very existence of society also testifies against it.


Religion and science against the Myth of Independence

Both religion and science testify that the sort of radical independence envisioned by the Myth of Independence simply doesn’t exist. Any bona fide religion—that is, one that tries to connect human beings with a spiritual source—reminds us repeatedly that we are our brothers’ keepers. If there is a God who created and who maintains the entire universe, then all of us must be connected back to him, even though the nexus may be invisible to us in our daily lives. At that central point, our individual existences must come together, and it would be impossible to distinguish any longer between “us” and “them.” The message of true religion is that, in some fundamental and essential way, we are all the same. Religion taken seriously should lead to mutual connection rather than noxious contention, and to a penetrating appreciation of the interdependence of all beings.

Science also has come to the understanding that all things are profoundly interdependent. Quantum physics, the science of the smallest constituents of matter, has discovered that the particles (or waves) that make up all matter are connected with one another so intensely that neither time nor space can separate them. Once two particles interact, their connection remains, and changing one of them results in a change in the other, no matter how far away it is.

Ignorance or unawareness of interdependence leads to bad behavior. To the extent that we are unaware of the innumerable connections between us and others, or keep ourselves in a mindset where we deny those connections, we are likely to behave selfishly, just as the Myth of Self-interest prescribes. To the extent that we are aware of the connections, or make ourselves aware of them by observation and study, we are likely behave considerately and compassionately.

Many people, under the influence of the Major Myths, have chosen to believe that they have few if any connections binding them to everyone and everything. Of course, life may at times demand that we stand on our own two feet, think for ourselves, and persevere though our own strength and stamina. But it hardly demands these things all the time. In fact, it calls much more for working together with others, for helping others as well as accepting help in return, and for contributing to the common good by playing a responsible role in society.

Interdependence verified by society itself

The very existence of society is the greatest proof we have that we are not independent beings. Why would we have come together to form societies if we were entirely self-sufficient? It makes no sense.

And yet archeology, oral tradition, history, and natural philosophy all agree that one the earliest acts of human beings was to come together. First as families, then as small bands, then as tribes, villages, and cities—human beings have always been social. Why would this happen if we could live perfectly well on our own? Why would we join together if we could meet all our needs alone?

The simple fact is that we are not self-sufficient. We need other people, both for survival under adverse conditions and for quality of life even when conditions are not adverse. We are social beings, and that means we are interdependent.


Tomorrow we will continue our discussion of the Myth of Independence, and we will see how the denial of interdependence by Mythers makes them irresponsible and ungrateful, and how the Myth of Independence combines with the Myth of Self-interest to corrode society.

Until tomorrow, then.


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