Interconnected Self-Sufficiency


The concepts of interconnectedness and self-sufficiency may, at first, seem incompatible. Interconnectedness implies that all living things have a special, spiritual or natural relationship through which states of being, experiences, and consequences of action are intrinsically linked. In contrast, self-sufficiency emphasizes rugged individualism and reliance on each person’s own abilities, skills, and resources. How is it possible that these are two of my most cherished values? I believe that these two ideas are, in fact, complementary and mutually reinforcing — and that one without the other is insufficient and even destructive.

I resent being offered help or being told what to do; I think all people do to some degree whether or not it enters their conscious thought process. I strongly feel that I need to figure things out for myself, and by doing so, I will have both learned a great deal and produced something in accordance with my values, goals, and vision. Interference from others contaminates the creative process, whether I am creating a project or my life — the greatest project of all. While my insistence on self-reliance has roots in my need to prove myself in response to low self-esteem and bountiful prior life mess ups, in addition to the necessities of near poverty, I am grateful that I have the will and ability to accomplish a great deal on my own. An aunt once taught me how to make turkey neck soup using what would otherwise be discarded meat from the butcher, and while I am now a vegetarian, I shall never be hungry due to the skills I have developed through these and similar life experiences. I think a lot of my ideas about self-sufficiency comes from the poetry written in my epigenetic code through generations of farmers.

Which brings us to interconnectedness. Who I am, what I believe, and what I do all have roots in family and community, in the context of relationships with other people and with the planet. I could not exist as a unique human being were it not for the generations that came before me, nor would I be as I am without the many people and places who have influenced me throughout my life. I did not learn to be self-sufficient in a vacuum; I learned specific skills over time through intentional observation, informal learning, and lots of practice. I have also been supported, nurtured, and encouraged by other people, both with and without economic exchange, and the most helpful have been shared with love, not in furtherance of a personal, organizational, or political agenda. I only hope that I have been able to unselfishly offer the same to others.

We are all connected — through in and out breaths, through economic systems, and through the need to survive. But we can’t truly thrive unless those relationships and systems which connect us also give us room for our own little flowers to bloom.