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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

paradox of values

in my experience, the word 'dependence' or 'dependent' almost always has negative connotations. we want to be independent. we want to be powerful enough, wise enough, to go it alone. we want to be self-sufficient, and we spend our entire lives working towards that goal. we want to be financially independent, and socially independent (from our parents, at least).

i want to break down that stigma and reveal one of society's lies. independence may be inherently good, in many cases, but dependence is not inherently bad.

children are dependent. so are employees. how about animals? some creatures depend on other creatures which are entirely different from them. most living creatures depend on air, water, food, protection of some kind...

what gets me is that i seem to be emotionally dependent on things/people. if i had three wishes, i'd use one of them to become emotionally independent. then i might even be able to choose what i'm feeling whenever i want! i could still let myself be affected by things, but i'd have final say in those experiences.

children, employees, animals... these are good examples of dependence. but here's the one i first thought of, and it's probably the strongest: spouses. any husband or wife with a healthy marriage relationship is very dependent on lor spouse, and only becomes more so as time carries the relationship onward! the stronger their relationship is, the more they depend on each other.

that baffles me. as messed up as the world is, i don't think anyone would say "marriage is inherently bad/evil." and yet marriage is the epitome of dependence, and the world definitely seems to be advocating independence!

we do it in dating relationships as well. in fact, some people get into those relationships because they are already dependent people! we would all frown upon this (stigma), and yet we acknowledge the fact that healthy romantic intimate committed exclusive relationships constantly foster dependence between the two lovers!

my parents just recently celebrated their 25th anniversary. imagine if my mother died tomorrow. due to their strong, enduring marriage, Dad would have an emotional breakdown.

i know marriage has many inherent risks and dangers, but that's just wild. here's a translation of what people are really saying when they make their vows at the altar:

"i now pledge to you my whole life, such that if you die, so do i."

now, friends, don't get all fussy; i'm only slightly exaggerating. some of you know the deep, excruciatingly painful void of losing a loved one. imagine being married to that someone who dies.

last night i was lamenting my emotional dependence. i experienced a deep depression, not new to me, and finally identified the source (with some help from C. S. Lewis' the Four Loves). this morning i was considering writing it off as a heart palpitation (basically a mild electrical malfunction). but now, i have to admit that, considering my circumstances and recent life-adventures, that depression was very understandable.

on the one hand, that sucks, because it means i have to accept them instead of fight them. (i know i'll have more in the future.) on the other hand, it's great, because it means i don't have to fight them. (i know i'd almost always lose.)

~ ~ ~

the trick, then, is not to find a balance between solitude and socializing, but rather to find a balance between dependence and independence. they're similar, but not exactly the same. oh; forgive me, i should rephrase. i need to find a way to integrate my independent aspects with my dependent aspects, so that i can live life as one whole person, rather than as many different parts of a person.

EDIT: didn't C. S. Lewis say something about becoming invulnerable to pain by refusing to ever love or be loved?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

complete selflessness is suicide

a long while ago, i reflected on the fact that i need to be needed. some friends and commenters agreed with me, saying that one of their greatest needs in life was to be needed by others.

recently i've been developing a more frequent habit of preparing myself for loss. i do this by asking myself this question: "self, are you mentally and emotionally prepared to lose this?" in other words, am i ready to accept the disappointment of losing what i value so much? am i ready to fail? am i ready for defeat? am i ready to be let down?

i've found that being prepared for the worst is a very great en-courage-ment for me. as long as i remain afraid of the future, i will approach it timidly and carefully, or i'll not approach it at all (which is worse, in many cases). but if i imagine myself there at the end of a thing, with nothing to show for my efforts except wasted energy and wasted hopes, then i can embrace that future and move forward confidently.

tonight i realized that i fear something other than failure. for a few years now i've had only that one fear, as far as i knew... but honestly, there's something else that scares me. here it is, in question form: what if, one day, i am no longer needed or wanted, by anything or anyone?

that scares me because i'm selfless. selflessness, it turns out, can be very selfish, because what if you're only being selfless for your own sake? what if you value others over yourself, only for the sense of fulfillment you gain from loving for them?

so now i have to ask myself, "are you prepared to be alone and forgotten?" am i ready to live a life that is never missed?

my initial answer, of course, is absolutely not. i want intimacy. as anti-social and solitary as i can be sometimes, i cannot deny my need for relationship. apparently, i also have a need to be needed. this bothers me alot, because it makes me dependent on others for my social well-being.

'well, duh, ij... how can you be socially well without others?'

i'm not really sure. i've always been a very independent person, and i've always liked that about me. but now i find out how dependent i actually am, and it bothers me. alot. i need other people to want me around, in order for me to be happy.

isn't that sucky? doesn't that mean i'm emotionally unstable, if i depend on other people for my own happiness? put another way, this means that whether i'm depressed or not depends on whether anyone cares that i am. and whether or not they express that to me.

let's make things more complicated: even though i want others to want me around, i tend not to believe anyone when they say they miss me. why should anyone miss me? they have plenty of other friends. they have hobbies. they have lives! by contrast: today i did nothing but eat, sleep, take Benadryl, check my e-mail, and wander aimlessly around the house.

at this point, some might say to me, 'well no wonder you feel depressed!' and then i would have to point out that i've just spent two weeks with close friends and lots to do. one would think i'd appreciate some rest and plenty of nothing to do... but nooo. as soon as i'm alone and without any responsibilities, my mood plummets. WHAT THE HECK.

i don't understand myself anymore. i feel like one of those in-between species, one of those missing links that supposedly died out, due to their unfit-ness for survival. i used to be a contented loner, but then i started evolving into a socialite, but i never quite finished the transformation, so now i'm stuck in transition with the worst of both worlds!!

i say i love to be alone, but i'm miserable without others.
i say i'm miserable without others, but i don't want to be with anyone.
i say i don't want to be with anyone, but i want everyone else to want to be with me.
i say i want everyone else to want to be with me, but i'm annoyed when they interrupt my solitude.
i say i'm annoyed when they interrupt my solitude, but i'm sad when nobody does.

something is very, very wrong with me.

back on topic, though. here's the reason why selflessness is suicide: if you only care about others, then you will end up only caring about yourself when other people do. if you enjoy satisfying others, then really you're just satisfying yourself. if you end up not caring about yourself, you won't want to satisfy yourself, in which case you won't care about others anymore, either.

finally, you'll discover that you are the only one you cared about to begin with, but since there's no satisfaction in that, you'll stop caring about yourself. and then you'll be completely apathetic. apathy leads to stasis, and stasis in this world is beset by entropy.

then you'll die.

EDIT: a year ago, i wrote a blog post about loneliness. here's a quote from it: "during those times when no one needs me, i feel that that's when i need others the most."