The myth of independence - we are connected to everyone, whether we want to be or not

Joe Luca

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We are sacred. We revel in our ability to be self-sufficient. To walk our own path and be the person in charge of our own destiny. To speak our minds, offer freely our opinions and bristle when confronted with opposition to how our lives will unfold.

We are rooted in our beliefs that who we are and what we will become is the aggregate of a lifetime’s worth of hard work – performed by us. We toy with the notion of spiritual intervention and yet stand firm that in the end, how we turn out, how we count our successes and our failures will be on us and no one else.

We are the purveyors and consumers of all things self-help, because we challenge ourselves to be detached, isolated and powerful. A walking poster child for individual excellence in a land filled with teams and teamwork. In love with personal statistics and milestones, we yearn for acceptance from others, while still being convinced that without individual greatness, there can be no true reward.

And yet, while we shake off the hands of support and limp across the finish line, feeling the exhilaration of accomplishment, we have somehow managed to lose a sense of connection with the rest of the universe. A connection that each and every one of us shares.

For in truth, without the knowledge, care and expertise of untold strangers who populate our world and yet are never truly seen by us, our world and all that we take for granted would to cease to exist.

Every mundane act that fills our day is made manifest because of something we did not do for ourselves.

From the toothbrush we use each morning to brighten our smiles and freshen our breaths, to the toilet paper we unroll one sheet at a time, we exist cleanly, are fed fully and are clothed fashionably by others who remained unnamed and unacknowledged as we plow ceaselessly through life, creating a legacy that we hope will make us proud.

Our love affair with independence; that stalwart of human traits that distinguishes us from everyone else, is as true an instance of unrequited love as ever there was.

Awakening

We are, whether we agree or not, profoundly dependent on all creatures, all around us.

Unless we are literally fashioning candles from rendered animal, fats or sewing our own garments from the hides of animals we killed for food, we are now far more interdependent on our fellow man than at any other time in our history.

We ponder life’s intricacies, while standing in front of an open fridge, searching for something to eat, from a near endless supply of pre-packaged food that we had absolutely no hand in creating.

We smile rakishly into our morning mirrors, coifing and patting and applying shades of makeup to hide our imperfections and accentuate the traits given to us by our mothers and our mother’s mother, generation after generation.

We cruise the boulevards seeking a new mode of expression and hope that the latest models will provide us with the look, the feel, the luxury we have grown to expect, while glazing over as the salesperson expounds on the virtues of all-wheel drive, while never discussing the origins of technology, the power of calculus in the creation of cars and how any and all of this would cease, if these skills suddenly went away.

And even as we frequent the theaters and submit to the inevitable arrival of Mad Max or the voracious appetites of the undead, we leave feeling chilled and disturbed but soundly entertained and never, not beyond the first or second beer, discuss what if any or all of these circumstances actually came to being.

Independence is a thump on the chest; a tattoo of Mom or a six-pack earned after 3 years in the gym. It’s a symbol of personal certainty and certitude; a rousing applause by our fellows that we have arrived, did it, been there and came away with the t-shirt that now resides in a gilded frame on the wall in our study.

But can we really go it alone?

Self-Reliance

If the fridge we look longingly into each evening were to suddenly be bereft of cold drinks, sandwich meat and microwave-able pizzas – what would we do? Would we hunt, and resurrect the long-lost instincts that favored our ancestors, or call Mom and ask her if she has any extra stuff in the pantry?

Should we worry about it, add this stressor to a long list already created and wonder – what would I do?

Or instead, should we simply look around and take note, no, really take note, that there are millions of people in this universe, floating in space along with you, your friends and all your Facebook followers, and take a moment to reflect on that fact. To stare into the eyes of anyone standing next to you – be it six feet or more – and find out what they do and how that particular thing actually impacts your life.

Have we become the masters of taking things for granted? One of those guys who never wonders what would happen if the handle attached to that white porcelain device in the bathroom ceased working. Or if the switch, made to look like a clown’s nose, failed to ignite the bulb, chasing darkness away.

Self-Awareness

Man has become supremely dependent on man. We now live in a world where interdependence is the order of the day. Where the sharing of ideas, and skills and innovations is not just a cool notion and a way to ride the wave of an IPO, but the most essential of all facts that come into contact with our existence.

We breath clean air, because Nature has provided us with creatures that scrub it vigorously every day before we inhale. We are able to hydrate our bodies every day – not because of the wonders of Coke and Gatorade, but because Nature provides us with water and man with knowledge of how to clean it all up after we use that aforementioned white porcelain device in our bathrooms.

Covid-19 and the land of isolation it has sentenced me to, has been a revelation. A firming up of ideas and beliefs that have softened over time and have come back into vogue, with a vengeance.

I am a capable man who has rightfully accepted responsibility for the skills and abilities I have acquired over a lifetime of hard work. But I am also a member of this universe. A single person, of a single species, one of many that collectively provide us with a damn nice existence.

Gratitude

Covid-19 did not create this interdependence among earth’s creatures. It simply slammed it into focus. I am not thankful for the harm it has wrought, nor the suffering that came with it. And yet, I feel compelled to learn. To observe, understand and take note of what changes it has brought. To be thankful in some appropriate way for becoming reacquainted with the intimate nature of the universe. The fact that without each and every one of us, each and every one of us would have a much harder time making it through the day.

Community

This community, that is arising from the talent and passions and beliefs of a few hundred writers, readers and thinkers, is a powerful tool for change. A sensitive instrument calibrated, not to maintain the status quo, but to alter it profoundly, so that we can reassessment our relationship with everyone we come in contact with.

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To inform, entertain, enlighten and otherwise engage in the age-old practice of storytelling. To be part of the process of keeping all of us informed on what is happening in the world around us and perhaps, if I do my job well enough, bring about change in the way we control our own lives and make the decisions that will impact our future and those of the people we care about.

Los Angeles, CA
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