Sunday, December 1, 2013

Connected, Part Three: Interdependence Versus Independence

A human being is a part of the whole, called by us, "Universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest -- a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security 
-- Albert Einstein
Image courtesy of Idea go at

Something to think about: 
If we lived in a culture that emphasized interdependence rather than independence, how would we act toward each other on a daily basis? If human beings could somehow free ourselves from the delusion of separateness that Einstein references above, what kind of world would we create? 

I live in a time and culture that primarily emphasizes separateness rather than connectedness. "Success" is generally defined in terms of individual accomplishments. "Identity" is my identity. It is individual.

But I have had moments of breaking free of that "prison." Here's one that stands out in my memory. I was at a local fair with my family, standing in line to buy fried dough or some other unhealthy fair food item. Standing nearby was a young man I whom I classified by the stereotype "skater dude." Glancing at him, my initial experience was one of separateness and (I'm embarrassed to admit) disdain. His ill-fitting clothing, his slouching posture, the way his hair hung across his eyes -- it all stimulated a kind of inner recoiling in me. But the next moment something shifted in me. It occurred to me that if I had been born into his body, his family, his life, I would be him. Not just like him the ways that all humans are like one another, but him, exactly as he was in that moment. The separation disappeared and I experienced connectedness in a profound way. For a few moments, I experienced the two of us not as separate individuals, but as the exact same "person" in two separate bodies. And then in the next moment, glancing around at all the fair attendees in the area, I felt my awareness of connectedness extend to all. Briefly, I experienced humanity as one being, rather than many. It wasn't a thought so much as a feeling. And it felt, true -- a glimpse beyond the illusion of separateness.

Now, I can't say that I have lived my life in a dramatically different way since that moment. Nor can I claim that the sensation of connectedness has stayed with me with the same intensity. But it has stayed with me. 

I'm aware that some readers may consider me loopy for expressing myself in this way. Others may view this post as an example of misguided let's-all-hold-hands-and-sing-kumbaya idealism. But that's okay.

I am simply sitting today with this question:
How would I live my life and how would I treat others if that sensation of connectedness was with me all the time as profoundly as it was in that brief moment at the fair? 

This post is one of a series of posts on the subject of connection. To read the full series, please click here


  1. There wouldn't be meanness or what about me in this world - that's for sure...nor would people be so willing to take rather than give... I can't say I have had the same feeling but I feel connected when I am out in public alone and feel the most free to talk, smile, share...

  2. I have had just a few moments like the one you had with Skater Dude, and they are incredible. Jolting.

    I don't think you're loopy at all :-)

    I mean, I don't think WE're loopy at all.

  3. We are made in the image and likeness of God. However, we are brought differently by our parents. I know that you are big enough to distinguish what is right from wrong. You also have your own decision so I just hope that whatever you think you do that is not right then you will be open for changes. It is never too late to change for as long as you are still breathing. Live happily and be friends to everyone. -