The Illusion of Independence

The second you buy anything from a store, you have depended upon another.

Every moment of our lives we are depending on someone or something other than ourselves to survive. We depend on the earth to provide the air that we breathe, the water we drink, and the food that we eat. We depend on people to provide us with our housing, the food and water we consume, the electricity that lights our homes and fuels our devices, and even the trash and sewer services that take our waste away.

We can’t sit or lie down without a chair, couch or bed (made by someone else), or if we prefer to sit on the ground or live without furniture, most likely we have some type of flooring or carpeting that protects us from the cold, damp earth. But even if we have a floor of dirt, we still depend upon gravity to keep us from floating up into the sky, and we rely upon the density of the earth for our body to ground to.

Without walls around us or a roof over our head (most likely built by another) we would be at the mercy of the elements, and without the comfort that we so greatly depend upon.

It is true that most of us have to work to live in a home, to pay for the services we need, and to buy the things that provide us with comfort. It is also true that we may believe we don’t have all that we feel we need. Yet most of us fail to recognize how much we depend on others to survive, causing us to live with a feeling of lack – as if we haven’t been given enough.

It is quite surprising to think about all the ways in which we depend on another for our survival. If we reflect upon this truth long enough, we will recognize the broad assumptions we have made that greatly impact our view of the world. We will become aware of the false stories we tell ourselves about how independent we are.

The story about our independence is an illusion that we bought into and never questioned. The truth is we cannot survive very easily (if at all) without the help of another. When we acknowledge this truth, our view of what it means to be independent changes.

Instead of focusing on what we don’t have enough of, we can begin to see all that we are receiving. We can begin to acknowledge the many people who are contributing to our comfort, convenience, security, and overall ease of living. We can recognize how dependent we are on the earth – and all the live beings residing on earth.

Every single thing we own or consume is made from resources that come from the earth. From our houses, to our clothing and bedding, to the food we eat and the water we drink – the earth is supporting our comfort and also every breath that we take.

Maybe this new realization will help us to think twice about our idea that we don’t have enough. Maybe it will help us to shift from the desire for more, to a greater appreciation of all that we have, and to the recognition of those who work hard to provide us with so much support in our lives.

We can pretend that we aren’t vulnerable and dependent, but this is an illusion. We can cling to our small sense of self, find ways to control our environment and build walls to protect us, but ultimately we realize we have delicate bodies and that our survival is deeply intertwined with other people and with nature.

As we recognize our dependence on the web of life, we can lovingly acknowledge all of the living beings who sustain and support us. When we acknowledge our vulnerability and our dependence, we can move beyond the illusion of separation and open our hearts to loving kindness and gratitude.

Photograph by Guillermo Alvarez

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