Being Independent

Being Independent And The American Dream

It just could be that fulfilling the American Dream is simply that of achieving the status of being independent. The American Dream is defined by some in terms of material things or in terms of money and personal wealth, as opposed to being defined in terms of being independent, free, and able to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

There's no arguing that wealth can make being independent easier to achieve, yet there are many well-off people who are tied down by their wealth and whose possessions are often just so much excess baggage to be protected and tended to.

Being independent is something worth working for. Granted, there are those who are quite happy being dependent on another person and there are whole countries where the population, or much of it anyway, is quite satisfied with being dependent upon the State. While independence is generally a good thing, it doesn't necessarily follow that being dependent is a bad thing, at least when there is free choice involved.

Being independent can be a heady experience, and at the same time be a scary one, as it means you have to rely on no one, which also may mean you cannot rely on anyone should the need arise. One has to be a little careful so that independence, if total, does not mean isolation. We really do need one another much of the time.

Power From The Bottom Up - Henry David Thoreau was perhaps the epitome of the independent thinker, and in today's world might be considered somewhat of a free-spirited troublemaker, certainly not one to hew the line. Thoreau said something to the effect that a State can never be free and enlightened unless the powers that be "recognize the individual as a higher and independent power", from which the power of the State is derived.

Lincoln said much the same thing in a slightly different context when he noted that "labor is prior to and independent of capital", which being a fruit of labor, could not exist without it. That thinking would possibly place Abraham Lincoln to the far left of center in today's political scene, a position we usually don't think of him belonging in. Another quote, this time from an educator, states: the sole purpose of formal education should be to help students "become independent of formal education".

Independence, Not Anarchy - Depending on who you are, what you do, and where you live, being independent can get you in trouble. The free spirit often pays a price. One of the challenges of being independent is the ability to make good decisions as to which rules to adhere to and which rules can be ignored or broken. Being successfully independent requires being able to understand the consequences involved in following or not following rules. As independent as one may be there will always be rules that need to be followed. One simply learns to live within those rules. The rules in question may be legal, spiritual, or just common sense rules that are always best followed.

Getting back to the decision of what the American Dream is all about, perhaps a little too much emphasis was placed on being independent. Independence is a part of it, but so is freedom, and the two, while interrelated, are not exactly the same. One can be quite independent, though not fully so, but it could be argued that one cannot be only partially free but not fully so. With freedom it's all or nothing, with being independent it's a matter of degree. Of the two, freedom is the most precious, but both are important and we really can't fully have one without the other. Being free, being independent, and realizing the American Dream are topics that can be discussed and argued to great length, but are always worthwhile topics to discuss, study, and argue about.