See, temptation should really be indulged more often… When I ponder a concept I like researching the origin of the word as well as the current meaning. And while I was pondering the word “independent” it was just a bit too unwieldy, just a tad too grounded… and just a little inaccurate. One of the partial synonims though was “free”, and I like that one better. Then I checked the word origin and I figured out why: it comes from the same ancient word that gave us “friend” and it means “to love”. Now tell me, given what I have written on this blog so far, how could I have resisted this? And more to the point, why should I have resisted?
My preference for the word “free” over “independent” comes from a few life choices I made that are currently paying off and hopefully will continue to do so over the years as well. Let’s examine some:
Financially independent (one of my goals) – if you take the literal meaning it means that you have money that is yours alone, when the actual meaning is that you (not your money) do not depend on someone else for your living expenses. There is a difference. Money will circulate. Utilities that you pay, food that you buy… money circulates, you just don’t need to trade your time/energy/knowledge for it. That means that you are free. And your money isn’t independent, either (think of any investment you like), it’s free.
Self-sufficiency (another one of my goals) – the literal meaning would have you believe that you produce all your own food/shelter/clothes/energy so now you are independent from others. Whilst there may be people like that, I regard them as free rather than independent. The closer people get to self-sufficiency, the more they seem to want…not dependency, but maybe inter-dependence: working bees seem to be the norm, barter/trade/swaps seem to be the norm, community reliance also seems to be the norm.
Child care – ask any parent about some of the things they try to do and sooner or later they will come up with a version of “raising independent children”. Toilet training, feeding and dressing themselves, needing decreasing adult input is a rule of childhood. Yet sometimes I feel we have taken this to extremes and we fear “spoiling” the child so as not to engender dependency. How many parents even now are listening to their child wail in bed alone in an attempt to get them to sleep “independent” of the adults that child depends on for everything in the first place? And yet any zoology (better yet, anthropology) book could reassure those same parents that co-sleeping will not mean a child continues to be dependent on you when he/she is – insert any number here.
The same thing applies for old age. We praise the elderly who live alone in their homes (they are so independent!) and yet the biggest problem they face is not health but loneliness. If you believe the media, this also extends beyond the elderly.
There is, of course, no one answer, merely rules of thumb with as many exceptions as there are people. It seems to me though that we live in a world that by and large allows us to live with a greater degree of freedom than most of “civilization” has ever had. So it would make sense to at least have a look at the rules we live by and check them for any signs of life and meaning.
As for me, free to decide and freedom from judgement trump independent any day of the week. 🙂