The Quest for True Human Connection
Communities, Separation and Interdependence
I’ve always been gung-ho about the autodidactic approach to growth. Independence this. Self-study that. Self-made this. Self-esteem that. But a few months back, everything began to transform.
Now I’m all community, community, community.
It all started after a fascination with Interdependence.
“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” - Carl Sagan
You know … how we can’t ever exist in isolation. Let’s begin our exploration with a question that isn’t as obvious as it may seem.
Who am I?
Am I this bag of skin that I label Ethan? Am I American? Am I white? Am I healthy? Am I an English speaker? Am I a writer? Am I a creator? Am I a traveler? Am I shy? Am I a person that is interested in XYZ? Am I a hippie? Am I a liberal? Am I tall? Am I short How could I ever possibly pinpoint who I am down to any labels?
What is this body but a composition of its own ecosystem of bacteria and cells and organs of which I have no direct awareness? And if I’m these cells then who am I when every one of my cells recycles itself?
I may live in the USA, but I survive by eating food that is shipped from halfway around the world.
I imagine I’m having original thoughts, but had the english language never been created I’d struggle to think anything at all.
I feel that new insights are coming to me every day, but when I begin reading I see that interdependence is as old a notion as humanity itself.
I AM NOT SELF-MADE.
I am a product of my culture, of the people that have touched my soul, of the books that have influenced my worldview, of the age-old spiritual practices that alter my perception, of the worldwide network of farms that contribute to my diet, and the technology that allows me to travel just to name a few.
I’m not independent of anything. If you take away everything in the universe but my human body then I’d instantly perish.
The ramifications of this feel as profound as anything I’ve ever come across, and I’m not responsible for this feeling. It’s only present because of the works of Nora Bateson, Charles Eisenstein, and The Buddha!
I define separation as the opposite of interdependence. It’s the ontology that subject (‘Me’) is separate from object (’THE WORLD’), which symptom is a feeling of isolation
The core thesis in The Ascent of Humanity is that separation of self from the world is the fundamental wound of our culture. From this wound, all suffering and evil arise. I imagine Buddhism would second this point. In Buddhism, purifying the mind is seen as more important than anything else you may ‘do’ in the world. But the Mind in Buddhism isn’t just your thoughts, it’s the whole edifice of Self that feels separate from the world.
Only recently did the all-encompassing ramifications of this fully sink in.
It’s not just that I feel separate from the world. It’s that all my suffering is generated from this feeling of separateness. It’s that all of the systems in the world that I’m contributing to rely on this separation and thus unconsciously perpetuate suffering.
A Few Examples
Seeking financial independence contributes to this core separation. It says “keeping my money in the bank is better than letting it flow between sources of value."
Purchasing land exacerbates this feeling that “my land is separate from your land.”
The language I use is subtly infused with and propagates this subject-world divide.
Seeing my life and career as drudgery with the sole purpose of survival maintains that sacrificing for the survival of the separate individual is more important than pursuing larger beauty and connection with all of life.
Science is grounded on the implicit assumption that the observer is separate from the reality that it’s trying to understand.
Trying to isolate an illness and taking medicine to reduce symptoms rather than seeking to relate more healthily with the larger interdependent conditions that allowed the sickness to thrive in the first place.
"Money in the Age of Reunion[think of this as the ‘age of interdependence’] ... will be a mechanism for sharing of wealth and not its accumulation. It will be a means for the creation of beauty, not its diminishment. It will be a barrier to greed and not an incentive. It will encourage joyful creative work, and not necessitate "jobs." It will reinforce the cyclical processes of nature, and not violate them." - Charles Eisenstein
Security as an individual won’t come from accumulating more (wealth, land, items, experiences, etc.), but rather by letting go. I’ll be taken care of by life the more I let go of the barriers that separate me from the rest of existence. My only job in each and every moment is to let go of the ideas, stories, feelings, beliefs, frameworks, etc. that tell me that I’m separate, that I’m not inter-connected with every single aspect of life.
How might life be different if I was pulled more by:
❓ How can I open my heart to life and surrender all self-other boundaries?
as opposed to:
❓ How can I survive?
💰The Trap of Trying to Be Self-Made
Now let’s take a look at the other side of the coin. What comes with the desire to maintain separation and “be self-made?”
In my experience, what comes is narcissism.
Let’s do a little thought experiment
Imagine doing thousands of hours of personal development work in isolation from the rest of the world. Each hour that our development is separate from the rest of the world we become a little more sure of ourselves. We become a little more confident that we’re doing the noblest thing that no one else in the history of the world has ever done.
Now imagine that we’re in a community of 1,000 people all developing themselves alongside us. Each one of our unique flavors of development is beautiful, and yet entirely distinguishable from every other flavor. I may be developing the intellect and becoming a great writer, you may be mastering decentralized economics, whereas another person is producing groundbreaking new music that guides people to new heights of consciousness.
It would be much more challenging to hold onto a narcissistic and bloated separate self in this context. Egotism in this environment would be going against the grain.
And this is the value of community, of relationships, of connection, of surrendering beyond all isolating notions, all feelings of separation.
Humility is easy given the right environment.
And humility is the most difficult thing in the world, given the wrong environment.
This brings us to my final point.
The vast majority of society is the wrong environment for humility, beauty, connection, love, interdependence, enlightenment, and wisdom.
The reason there’s so much evil and suffering in the world isn’t because that’s how the world works, it’s because the environment we call culture is optimizing for all the wrong traits.