“Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless –like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” – Bruce Lee
I’ve written articles about kicking open the third eye, about becoming a better god, and about who we really are. But maybe that was inadvertently putting the cart before the horse. Maybe the horse of our nirvana just keeps slamming into the back of the cart of our disillusionment over and over. Maybe by getting down to the basic nature of our relationships –with ourselves, with others, and with the system– we can help ourselves get the horse back in front of the cart so we can continue down the twisting, unpredictable, ever-changing and uncertain path toward enlightenment. Or maybe not. Either way, in this article we’re going to break down the dependency paradigm in order to see if we can get the horse/cart equation to balance out.
“Cease being ignorant of what you are most assured, your glassy essence, and you will cease to be an angry ape playing such fantastic tricks before high heaven as make the angels weep” –Shakespeare
Most of us grew up in a codependent culture. Most of us were born into a dysfunctional relationship with an unhealthy system, a relationship where the system supports and enables our addictions, our poor mental health, our immaturity, our irresponsibility, our under-achievement, and our inability to form healthy relationships.
We have a predisposition, due to cultural conditioning, to become codependent enablers who are crippled into a state of denial, low self-esteem and excessive compliance. We’ve been locked into control patterns set up by an unhealthy system of human governance that keeps the powerful in power and the powerless out of power. It works wonderfully well for a select few, but horribly for the greater majority.
When an individual is locked into a codependent relationship, regardless of which side of the codependent relationship they’re on, there is no true sense of self, except in a dysfunctional, narcissistic way. The “individual” is concerned only with the almighty image. There is an artificial and surface sense of self, but there is no authentic sense of self. We’re like a billion Narcissists spellbound by our own image, unaware that it’s all an illusion. Everything is hurried. Everything is fleeting. Everything is haphazard and aimless.
In a codependent state we are set adrift upon unsustainable and poisonous waters, but we’re all too distracted by the flashy goings-on and the false-fire flamboyance of our preconditioned state to realize that anything is wrong, or how precarious our position really is. It’s a catch-22 of monumental proportions. We’re like small-picture thinking horses with blinders on; only the blinders are mirrors mirroring “it’s just the way things are” back at us.
And before we know it, we’re stuck. There seems to be no way out. We’re damned if we do and we’re damned if we don’t, spinning through spoon-fed lives based on an abstraction of an abstraction. We’re caught in the double-bind of survival (paying bills and putting food on our children’s plates) and peer pressure (just getting through the day without being harassed).
We come to realize that in order to get healthy, in order to get to a place where we can just breathe and take account of our lives and become present with our reality, we’re going to have to become an individual who has the courage to flip the world on its head.
“This ceaseless change does not mean discontinuity as a person; rather change is itself the very basis of our continuity as a person. It is because I cannot see what you see that I can see at all.” – James P. Carse
Between unity and multiplicity there is the individual, dangerously jutting out from the herd, black fur prominent like the black dot on the yang side of a yin-yang. These people are independent, self-empowered and courageously alone against the grandiosity of the greater universe. They stick out like sore thumbs, but they are only “sore” because they get things done. They alone have the courage it takes to break the cycle, to be the link that separates itself from the dysfunctional chain of codependency.
They alone have the courage to recondition the precondition, and take personal responsibility for the course (healthy or unhealthy) their lives have taken. They dare to stare peer pressure in the face by not agreeing with the common cliché “it’s just the way things are.” And they have the audacity to turn the tables on authority and disobey, because they have become their own authority, the rest of the world be damned.
Independence, simply put, is freedom from dependence. When we are independent we are exempt from reliance on, or control by others, and we are finally able to be honest with ourselves. We become exempt from the chain of codependency and we become personally responsible for our power. We become tiny Davids in a Goliath world.
In an unhealthy, unsustainable system, only independent individuals have the capacity to understand if their way of living is healthy and sustainable or not. Codependent people cannot properly assess their living situation as healthy or sustainable because they are too caught up in the throes of being dependent to see straight.
But, and here’s the rub, there is no such thing as being independent. It too was all an illusion. It was a great way to get some clarity in an unclear world. It was a necessary step to take in order to get to a place where we could honestly assess our situation and finally breathe. It was a courageous leap, an audacious climb out of the brambles of codependency. But the truth of the matter is that everything is connected.
In order to truly achieve an authentic sense of self, we must be able to let go of our independence just as courageously as we let go of our codependency. Like before, we’re going to have to become an individual who has the courage to flip the world on its head.
“If the individual realizes his self by spontaneous activity and thus relates himself to the world, he ceases to be an isolated atom; he and the world become part of one structuralized whole; he has his rightful place, and thereby his doubt concerning himself and the meaning of life disappears.” – Erich Fromm
All around us, branching out in all directions through the fabric of the cosmos, there is a glorious web that stretches out infinitely in all directions known as Indra’s Net. Suspended from this web of eternal gossamer, are infinite glittering dewdrops each with an “eye” that sees and mirrors all the other dewdrops ad infinitum. They glitter like stars in a galaxy. They glimmer like neurons in a brain.
If we were to arbitrarily select one of these dewdrops for inspection and look closely at it, we would discover that in its polished surface there are reflected all the other dewdrops on the web. Within each “single” dewdrop there is an infinite reflecting process occurring. Indeed, there is an interpenetration occurring (and reoccurring) that connects the matrix of reality into an interdependent, coalescent whole.
We are like these dewdrops. Alone, we are just a dewdrop. But everything implies everything else, so within us is reflected the web and every other dewdrop. There’s no such thing as a single event, or a single atom, or a single electron. Everything is connected. There cannot be a “you” without a universe to contrast “you” against.
Just like there cannot be In without Out, or wave without trough. Just like there cannot be a dewdrop on Indra’s Net without the net. We are all king and commoner. We are all both Individual and World. Perceptually, everything has a beginning and an end, but actually, everything is both beginning and ending all at the same “time.” Or there is no beginning and end; there is only the Eternal Now. Like Richard Feynman powerfully said, “I: a universe of atoms, an atom in the universe.”
Interdependence is freedom from the tyranny of freedom, an eco-psychosocial melting of sorts. Where everything is allowed to be perfectly imperfect, and the permanence of impermanence is the only constant, and change is the only rule. Our independence becomes merely a shadow of our individuation. Our codependent past becomes merely an abstraction of an abstraction, a shadow on Plato’s Cave.
By reconnecting with the cosmos, by embracing our interdependence, we have not only freed ourselves from the burden of slavery, we have also freed ourselves from the burden of freedom. The world suddenly goes from being a thing that needs to be conquered to a thing that needs to be surrendered to. Indeed, it is when we embrace our interdependence for the first time that we discover, as Alan Watts did, that we’re no longer victims of the world, we are the world.
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