Dependence and Independence

I was talking with some friends about the nature of dependence the other night. I made the comment that there was a point in my life where I probably didn’t understand what it felt like to be completely dependent on another person/thing/organization/whatever.

Today, I’m sitting on my couch as my son is sleeping. He’s been sick today and is generally just feeling puny. I’m looking at him now and thinking about this notion of dependence and how he is completely dependent on me. It’s the basic core responsibility that every parent faces. Yet, to him, it’s just the way things are. He doesn’t know that there’s a way to live where he doesn’t need to be dependent on anyone.

That sounds like it should be something to strive for. That we should all strive to be independent. We are often encouraged to be this way in our school years. In fact, our son is at a Montessori school where independent work and thought is highly important.

Yet, there’s an aspect of our lives where independence has few, if any, benefits. That’s in the realm of the spiritual. That is, in the way we deal with other human beings and how we move through the world making contact with other people, it may well prove beneficial to rely on people. If one is so inclined, it may be even more solid to rely on one’s definition of a higher power.

My son could almost certainly wake up right now and even though he’s only 3 years old, go upstairs, wash his face and hands, change clothes, and eat a little something to see if he feels better. That would be a strong, independent series of actions. I would be proud of him for doing all those things without assistance.

However, when it comes to the times when he’ll have to face real struggle small or large, like a friend being mean to him or a grandparent passing away, he’ll need something more than a basic set of instructions or list of tasks. He’ll need to rely on those around him that love him and if he so chooses in the future, his own definition of a higher power.

I have found, in a relatively brief period of time, that my own independent spirit has been borne of dependence on close friends and my conception of a higher power. It seems that by shuffling off to those I rely on the small slights and perceived wrongs that the world foists on me each day, I am able to spend time and effort on the deeper, core challenges of being a kind, loving, tolerant person. That’s got be a good place to spend my time.

That’s not to say that I unload all my crap on others and let them deal with it. It has become the sort of thing that deep friendships do best. I complain or grumble and my friend provides levity and objective perspectives that inevitably allow me to see a clearer path unclouded by my ego and self-serving instincts. In turn, I must do the same for them, or else I’m simply back to the state I described in the opening. Sure, I’d be dependent on someone, but if I can’t be dependable then it all falls down.

It nearly goes without saying that I am not in this enlightened state all of the time, or even a quarter of the time, but it’s a state to which I strive and an effort I enjoy.

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