My online dictionary tells me “independent” means “not influenced or controlled by others in matters of opinions, conduct, etc..” and “not dependent or contingent on something else for existence, operation, etc”. Even to the most extreme individualist, the idea of a world full of textbook independents must look scary– everyone unconnected and self-focused– that would really be Hell. Which is why I picked my title– a steadfast devotion to ourselves is a sure road down to Hades.
So why does modern Western culture hold up independence as such a high virtue? I can’t identify a single point of origin, I blame everyone from Aristotle to faith-alone advocates to the inventor of the printing press.
Whatever the cause, I find the results of our independence obsession both frustrating and frightening.
Last week I shared a story version of some of the key concepts from the book Married Love. I especially wanted to draw attention to the nobility of dependency in marriage. It is such a shame that women’s advantage of a predisposition to spiritual conjunction and a desire for reliance on their husbands is so often ridiculed and demeaned!
But the far greater danger I fear is that Western culture’s independence-peddling is creating an environment that impedes our ability to connect with the Lord. It seems yet another manifestation of our sense-of-self (aka “proprium”) getting precedence over God. I keep imagining Adam and Eve gorging on that Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil with various modern psychologists and cultural leaders smiling approvingly at such models of independent thought and action.
So I have a little experiment for you. Following are five short quotes from the Word and Heavenly Doctrines. As you read them, try to imagine how a steadfast dedication to independence could make these Truths harder to accept and these practices more difficult to undertake. And maybe we can stop holding independence as such a lofty idea.
“Peace has in it confidence in the Lord, that He directs all things, and provides all things, and that He leads to a good end.” Arcana Caelestia 8455
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
“Actual repentance is examining oneself, recognizing and acknowledging one’s sins, praying to the Lord, and beginning a new life.” True Christian Religion 528
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. this is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39
“Love consists in this, that its own should be another’s; to feel the joy of another in oneself, that is loving.” Divine Love and Wisdom 47