Technically speaking, I am a fully independent man. I have surpassed the official age of retirement and am free to do as I please. This realization happened a few years ago when nearly all my remaining familial obligations came to an end.
In reality, I have chosen to continue some family responsibilities and remain living in the same town and state for practical reasons. Is this partial independence really independence or not? I pondered the subject of independence earlier this week, while I picked up elm tree sticks and swept tree leaves off of the driveway.
I do not own my home. I pay a man for the privilege of living here. You might say that this is a form of voluntary feudalism. I pay tribute to a landlord in the form of money plus house and yard maintenance. I fulfill the role of a peasant who cares for the interests of the lord. Meantime, the landlord is the lord who is ultimately responsible for the land and buildings. His role as owner includes writing the cheques to tax collectors, insurance companies, and bills for major maintenance costs.
I have temporarily exchanged part of my independence for the right to enjoy living at the pleasure of the landlord. Meantime, the landlord has the freedom to sell this property or to pass it on to his son as part of an estate. Of course, I have the freedom to sell my belongings, give a one month notice to the landlord and vacate the property. Looking at the situation in this manner, I currently enjoy more independence than my landlord possesses.
I can extrapolate the above situation to the radical point of me becoming some sort of prospector or mountain man who has eschewed civilization altogether. I would still depend upon the choice of civilization to maintain a benevolent attitude towards people who reject civilization yet exist within the national boundaries of that civilization’s land mass. As long as I live, I can never be absolutely, totally independent.
For the sake of argument, I currently fall into the category of independent humans. Within these generous parameters, I am free to face adversities and challenges pretty much on my own terms. I am free to envision creative projects and tweak my life’s purpose. I am legally allowed to channel my strengths and compensate for my weaknesses in order to achieve goals. Within the constraints of my financial assets, I can pretty much come and go as I wish.
Humans find great satisfaction in feeling free and independent. Self-sufficiency is a rewarding state of being. However, independence is fleeting. It can be taken away by social tradition or through crime. If we commit a crime, we can expect justice and incarceration. If crime is committed against us, we might lose the physical means to live independently.
Even when one lives a reasonably happy, productive life and ends up with a bountiful measure of resources, independence will eventually wane. For most of us, our health will decline in some ways, or we will need to depend upon other people in some way just to maintain our basic survival needs. That may manifest in the confines of assisted living apartments. If we live even longer, there is the prospect of surrendering nearly all of our independence to existence in a nursing home.
The above scenario takes place in a first-world, prosperous nation. Independence takes on different meanings in nations that have other modes of governance and economic systems. Independence might mean greater freedom and joy or more hardship and suffering.
Meantime, independence may be simply an illusion. When we think of our lives on Earth, we live within the dimensions of interconnectedness. There is no such thing as full independence. All beings are dependent upon other beings and other things. We are all dependent upon stuff of this planet.
The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders something from the retail store founder, James Cash Penney, Junior. “The five separate fingers are five independent units. Close them and the fist multiplies strength. This is organization.”