“Interdependence is and ought to be as much the ideal for man as self-sufficiency.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Independence is a prized commodity in our culture. It implies self-worth. Children celebrate milestones with, “Look, mom, I did it myself.” Family and school teach independent living skills. Elderly despair the loss of independence. Institutions tout their mission to enhance the independence, hence the dignity, of constituents.
I like to think I’m a competent blind person. Part of competence is meeting my own needs. But my independent behavior inventory lists just one activity: shaving. Even this, I rely on Barbasol and Gillette. I might claim independent mobility, yet I depend on my white cane, my Seeing Eye dog, a GPS and the CTA. I dress in style with the help of a color identifier. I bathe using labeled shampoo and soap dispensers. I read recorded books, write using adaptive software and do arithmetic with a talking calculator and Microsoft Excel. On Saturday nights, I watch movies with a descriptive soundtrack.
Because I’m a perfectionist, I like to do it myself. Because I’m American, I value self-reliance. Dependence is a social disease for us. Losing mastery of my environment has been humbling and, occasionally, humiliating. But it’s also a chance for growth, to grow into accepting my limitations, of accepting a role of asking for and accepting help.
To support my assertion, I’ll quote some wise guys. The author Stephen Covey counsels, “Interdependent people combine their efforts with the efforts of others to achieve their greatest success.”
Thomas Merton, a really spiritual guy, says, “The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings which are all part of one another and are all involved in one another.”
And the Moody Blues sang, “Through the eyes of a child, you will come out and see, that the world’s spinning ‘round, and through life you will be, a small part of a whole of the love that exists. Through the eyes of a child you will see.”