I’ve had some interesting experiences over the past few days that have made me realize my place or role within the grander scheme of things if you will. What I’m seeing in the world right now is that there are a lot of people who are striving to become more authentic and independent which is great because this is what I’m all about at my core. It’s about connecting, empowering, and inspiring people to be their true authentic selves and pursue their own passions.
There’s one big problem in what I’m seeing though and this is where I think I might be able to help. I see all of these people becoming self-reliant and independent but at the same time, I seem them disconnecting from others in the process. In effect, what they are finding is that for them to be truly themselves, they feel they have to step away from society and others because others often pressure them to be what they don’t want to be.
Yet for us to evolve as a society, especially to overcome the challenges we face ahead, we need to be able to collectively work together in harmony. So it’s more than just helping individuals to see and live their lives in a new way, we need to help organizations to work in completely new ways as well. In effect, the change has to be holistic in nature, coming from both the bottom (individuals) and the top (organization) at the same time. This approach, which might seem paradoxical in nature, is something that Margaret Wheatley talked about in her book Finding Our Way.
Life takes form as individuals that immediately reach out to create systems of relationships. These individuals and systems arise from two seemingly conflicting forces: the absolute need for individual freedom, and the unequivocal need for relationships.
It seems that whenever we bargain with life and seek to satisfy only one of its two great needs, the result is lifelessness. We must live within the paradox; life does not allow us to choose sides. Our communities must support our individual freedom as a means to community health and resiliency. And individuals must acknowledge their neighbors and make choices based on the desire to be in relationship with them as a means to their own health and resiliency.
And what happens when we don’t fulfill these two needs? Something that will probably look familiar to a lot of people right now.
Particularly in the West, and in response to this too-demanding price of belonging, we move toward isolationism in order to defend our individual freedom. We choose a life lived alone in order for it be our life. We give up the meaningful life that can only be discovered in relationship with others for a meaningless life that at least we think is ours. What we can see from our pursuit of individualism is the terrible price exacted for such independence. We end up in vacant places, overwhelmed by loneliness and the emptiness of life.