Individual or Independent

Welcome, I see you survived the festivities of the Fourth of July fireworks and feasting.

I have some acquaintances that recently moved here from the UK for work.  I am anxious to ask them how they felt about the massive celebration of independence from their home country.  It will be an interesting conversation.

Independence is the center of our cultural DNA and it permeates our society.  It’s who we are and we don’t want anyone to control our destiny.  The only thing that makes my ears perk and cock my head is the nagging notion that any and all strengths, if carried too far, becomes a negative… even potentially fatal if not kept in proper confines.

In my last blog entry I mentioned that freedom is to and from and one is always dominant.  As a country we sought freedom from oppression and unfair restriction.  If the mother country had not maintained its oppressive stance we no doubt would be flying a flag with at least a portion being the Union Jack, driving on the left side of the road and having our afternoon tea.

But the oppression forced our desire to get away from which opened the door to allow us to go to.

The release from the restrictions unleashed a risk taking group of pioneers to pursue possibilities of individual growth, success and opportunity.

Side Note: Don’t worry, this is not going to be a history lesson.  Although its interesting there’s too much here for us as individuals that we must explore.  Remember we are on an exploration journey.

Rugged individualism became the hallmark of our cultural psyche.  The beautiful gift of opportunity allowed individuals to step beyond the barriers of history (class, culture, restrictive government, etc.) and pursue it to the extent of the person’s ability, desire and willingness to work.

Historically this individual pursuit rested on the unified commitment of the masses to protect the tenants that perpetuate the ability for personal growth and gain.  In essence we must have unity but not uniformity.  Unity in our belief and commitment to the core tenants but individual diversity in their own personal pursuits.

The unity of freedom has never relied on uniformity of opinion. – JFK

Here’s my concern.  Over the past several years it feels like to me the Rugged Individualism that has made us great has morphed into Rugged Independence.

On the surface that may not seem so bad.  But to me it feels like the fabric of who we are is being dangerously pulled to threads by individuals demanding individual rights at the expense of the whole.  That individual demands and wants supersede and undermine the foundation of beliefs that historically unified the whole.

This is a topic of sufficient sophistication and complexity that it requires a mind greater than mine to do it justice.  Although I am not capable of taking the topic much further I can, and must, focus the issue where it has the most impact… ME and you.

I long for and strive to be an individual.  I want to think for myself and be unique in who and what I am.  I like being different at times.  But individualism that has morphed into independence causes one to believe that they stand beyond and separate from the whole.

The need for control and self expression overrides common courtesy and civility.  The individual knows that they are a part of something greater.  The independent person only accommodates the greater when it happens to coincide with their wants.  Independence breeds isolation.

The question of individualism vs. independence is something I personally continue to periodically test to make sure I have not morphed into an isolated self-serving person.

See you Thursday.

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  1. Helpful distinction you just made for me between being an individual and being independent. I think I always thought of them as the same–but you are right-not at all. We can be an individual without being independent. Thank you!

  2. Jerry Rushing

    I too saw them as similar for a long while. But it crystallized for me when I found myself encouraging individuality (creativity, variety, etc.) but in agreement about the core values and goals.
    This is unity without uniformity.

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