One of the greatest, and I believe detrimental, lies perpetuated by American individualism is the concept of the self-made man or woman. The title of this concept begins with a lie; none of us are actually self-made. In fact, the existence of your self happened without any of your opinions, control, or say. Your existence has nothing to do with choices you made. Your very existence is the result of two other people making a choice that produced you. This is how your life started.
The next 20+ years of your life are shaped by a multitude of influences including, but not limited to: parents and/or guardians, environments - many of which you have no choice regarding - such as your home, school, faith community, your parent’s friends, your friends (who were shaped by their parents as well as other outside forces), entertainment, culture, and a personality you didn’t choose to have. Who you are now, which started with two other people’s decision, has been shaped by forces outside of your choosing.
Every decision you make is a negotiation with the social, universal, and cultural laws that govern us. At almost no point in life do you get to stand on an unbiased platform and make a completely autonomous, un-influenced decision. Every decision you will make will not only affect you, it will affect those immediately near you as well as future, not yet realized, relationships. This is so integrated into us that many scientists and some religious folks claim there is no such thing as true free-will because there are too many external and internal factors that shape the very force and affections we have that even allow us to use our will. While I am not confirming nor debating the free-will issue, what I am saying is that who you are and what you have accomplished (or failed to), is more about the relationships you align with as opposed to some illusion of being self-made.
This isn’t just a human thing; this has been the code of the universe far longer than we have been around, and we are simply a product perpetuating that very code. The only reason life exists on this planet, is not because of Earth’s ability to stand alone as a planet conducive to life. Rather it has everything to do with all varying degrees of gravitational pulls toward and against other bodies within the universe. Another way to say this is relationship. Earth’s relationship with everything else is what makes life possible. This same principle applies to the subatomic level as well. The only reason we even have cells and molecules that through levels of complexity result in living human bodies is because groups of atoms are in relationship and those relationships created the subsequent degrees of magnitude. The law of the universe from the subatomic level, to the human being, to the universal, is relationship. And the quicker we break away from the chains of complete individualistic autonomy in the religion of the “self-made man/woman” and realize we are interdependent beings, and social animals, the quicker we begin to open up our true potential to tell a better story with our lives.
The essence of the life you live is dependent on the tribe you choose. This week I simply wanted to speak out against the ideology of the “self-made man/woman” and postulate the need for a tribe. Up next? How to choose that tribe.