Tuesday, July 29, 2008

confessions of an complete and utter individualist

americans are lonely. just google "lonely americans" and see all the articles that come up. but, if you're an american, you probably don't need to google something to know what i'm talking about.

my MBTI personality type says that i'm a theorist, so let me theorize for a bit. (i don't think this will be anything ground-breakingly new, though.)

americans are the loneliest people on the planet because we have everything we could ever need and most things we want. we also live in individual houses usually with our nuclear family. if we have everything we need in our secure little and big houses, then we have no real reason to depend on anyone else. and what if reciprocal dependence on others is the cornerstone for practical relationships in everyday life?

if i have everything i need for everyday life in my house (or could go and buy something if i needed it), then relationships ultimately are optional. i can pick and choose who to relate too, when to break it off, whether i'll go out of my house or invite others in at all...or to put it another way: relationships are ultimately completely disposable and totally under my control.

if this is true then the path to true connections and relationships is not the bar scene or any other "scene" to meet new people, is not facebook, is not watching more movies with friends, is not being on the phone more, but is giving your stuff and money away so that you are forced to rely on others.

but how can americans, who were programmed from birth to give their whole life to the individual pursuit of happiness and wealth break out of this mindset?

when my family arrived at the apartment complex we're living in now, a family that was moving out gave us a toddler riding toy (like a little plastic bike). it was just the right size for our one and a half year old and had a handle to push bike from behind like a stroller. perfect for going on walks! we left the bike on the bike rack unchained only to find that a few days later it was moved to the apartment complex park around the corner. this happened several times and we found out later that some families from another country thought it was part of the apartment park toys.

but it was not there when I needed it. I had planned on using it and several times, I had to go without. this was given to US and, even though it was unused for 23.5 hours a day, I should have access to it when I want it.

i can't tell you the war in my mind with this little bike. should we now claim it and lock it up? put our name on it? what if another kid breaks it? then MY son won't have it anymore. (of course it was given to us in the first place.) but what about the joy that these other kids get from it? what am i teaching my kids if we lock it up now? and if i have such a great war over a free toddler toy, how will i ever be able to release larger things...cell phones, tools, cars, houses?

so my dilemma is this....i know in my heart that the sharing of things is the key to real community and relationships, but i have been programmed since birth to see THINGS as attached to INDIVIDUALS. that little bike is "MINE." i have no category for "OURS" with OURS extending beyond me and my nuclear family.

maybe this is all me? maybe not.

who will set us free from this program, or better, this operating system, that americans have been programmed with? how will we become dependent on others in ways that foster relationship without them being optional.

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