Michael Cassman

You can’t spell “independence” without “dependence”

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Hi there.

Just yesterday millions of red-blooded Americans celebrated Independence Day, July 4th, America’s 246th birthday…

And I was one of ’em.

As I hovered around the grill surrounded by friends and family enjoying copious amounts of hamburgers, hot dogs, margaritas and sunburns, one question kept rolling around in my red-white-and-blue, dreamy-eyed and freedom-filled reflections:

“Does independence really make you happy?”

It’s kind of a big question.

First of all, independence isn’t the same thing as freedom or liberty.

Here’s how I keep it simple in my own head: freedom is the ability to do as you wish, liberty is having a right to do as you wish…and independence is about being beholden to no one.

Independence is “I don’t need nobody”, “I’m good enough on my own”, and “I can take care of myself”.

We can see this meaning in the word itself “in” (not) “dependent” (relying on or beholden to for your existence).

By declaring independence from King George the Tyrant, we said more than just “we’re ready to be free”, we said “we’re ready to be free AND, henceforth we have no connection with you whatsoever. We’re done, it’s not us, it’s you…and we’re never ever getting back together…”

For the United States, declaring independence really did seem like opening a new door to previously untapped potential and happiness.

But how far does that independence-makes-happiness dynamic go?

Well, it seems like independence has to correspond proportionally with our ability to be autonomous.

Easy example: babies can’t be independent.

They can’t move without being carried, feed or clothe themselves or communicate on their own, they’re not autonomous, so independence is impossible.

And independence for someone who is not able to be independent would be a death sentence…(literally and figuratively).

So it seems that happiness doesn’t necessarily follow from independence.

You have to be sufficiently autonomous and predisposed to take on the responsibility and only then do you have the potential for greater happiness.

And it’s not guaranteed, either…because merely having the ability to be independent doesn’t mean you won’t screw it up somehow and make yourself miserable…wisdom and prudence are required to properly use independence to improve your life.

Independence is actually a weighty responsibility.

And that conclusion led me to one last question: what makes this Independence thing work?

Admittedly, I’d never thought of it before so I could have it all wrong…

But I’d argue…dependence. Dependence makes independence work.

Here’s what I mean.

Only a self-sufficient society can exist independently of others.

A self-sufficient society is a group of people cooperating with a unified vision and following some fearless leader…in doing so, they can provide everything they need to survive on their own…

That means a self-sufficient society demands everyone within that society depend on each other in some way. The government depends on the people, people on the government, states on the nation, cities on the state all the way down the line to the family who depends on their town and the baby who depends on its mother.

Yes the US is independent of England, but only because it’s entirely dependent internally. Because that’s how society works. No one man is sufficient on his own, he finds his fulfillment in society which demands a certain level of dependence on his part, and society to some degree depends on him.

Let me know what you think! What are your thoughts on independence, dependence and happiness?

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