[In]dependence

Another excerpt from The Art of Happiness:

“As [the Dalai Lama] spoke, I felt an instinctive resistance. Although I’ve always valued and enjoyed my friends and family, I’ve considered myself to be an independent person. Self-reliant. Prided myself on this quality in fact. Secretly, I’ve tended to regard overly dependent people with some kind of contempt — a sign of weakness.

Yet that afternoon, as I listened to the Dalai Lama, something happened. As “Our Dependence on Others” was not my favorite topic, my mind started to wander again, and I found myself absently removing a loose thread from my shirt sleeve. Tuning in for a moment, I listened as he mentioned the many people who are involved in making all our material possessions. As he said this, I began to think how many people were involved in making my shirt. I started by imagining the farmer who grew the cotton. Next, the salesperson who sold the farmer the tractor to plow the field. Then, for that matter, the hundreds or even thousands of people involved in manufacturing that trailer, including the people who mined the ore to make the metal for each part of the tractor. And all the designers of the tractor. Then, of course, the people who processed the cotton, the people who wove the cloth, and the people who cut, dyed, and sewed the cloth. The cargo workers and truck drivers who delivered the shirt to the store and the salesperson who sold the shirt to me. It occurred to me that virtually every aspect of my life came about as the results of others’ efforts. My precious self-reliance was a complete illusion, a fantasy. As this realization dawned on me, I was overcome with a profound sense of the interconnectedness and interdependence of all beings. I felt a softening. Something. I don’t know. It made me want to cry.”

Just for myself, it’s interesting to reflect on how hard I try to prove that I can be independent from those I love (the friends and family as mentioned above), yet I am absolutely dependent on millions of other people (strangers!) for nearly everything I use or buy. I guess you could argue that these dependences are not equal because we have no say (or at least minimal say in order to maintain a consumerist lifestyle) in our dependence on the strangers that make all of our material goods, while our independence on our loved ones is a choice and a decision.

What do you think?

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About evajge

A friend once told me that all I eat is chocolate and cheese. I was both disturbed and amused to realize that he was right.
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