Upon the great ocean of life we sit in a boat. This boat represents the sphere of our contact with the world outside. Beyond us, we can see the bright blue waters extending for miles and miles, and below us, the depths receding quickly away into an unfathomed deep.
When we first enter life, we sit like a child on the bottom of that boat. Life decrees that we move forward and progress, yet we sit motionless. Without progress, we die; without anyone to help us, we die.
So our parents, being loving, attach to us like a tugboat and pull us forward. The going is slow, but it is steady. We cannot choose our course, but at least we’re moving. This is the condition of dependence.
But as we grow older, we see other places we’d like to go. Our arms grow stronger, and we figure out how to use the pair of oars that are sitting nearby. By dipping them into the water and pulling on them, we are able to frustrate the steady course that has been chosen by our parents. This causes some turmoil, but it makes us aware of our ability to choose a different path.
Through practice, and an increase in strength, we are able one day to struggle and break free of the tugboat’s hold. Now we are on our own; we are choosing our own destiny. This is the condition of independence.
Those who are independent realize that their only means to success is self-made decisions. If they do not choose to work, no one else will be able to make them successful. It is the same with virtue. No one conditions the heart of another person.
Being in this position, the independent person learns how best to maximize their talents. They learn how to row the oars faster, how to build up stronger arms, how to use the current to their advantage – but they are still moving relatively slowly. Can anyone realistically row around the world? Maybe a few people can, but not everyone.
So there is another step. From independence we learn how to choose our own goals, based on our own values. Yet it is through interdependence that we derive that very important quality of speed. Only through interdependence can the majority of us make it around the world. Many independent people understand the goals they want to accomplish, but these goals are too audacious for them to achieve.
In the condition of interdependence we become aware that there are masts rising up from the center and ends of our boat. These masts have always been there, but we didn’t know their purpose. These masts represent the people who are close to us in this life.
When our relationships are well-developed, it is liking hoisting up huge, fine sails upon the masts. And when we are loving, it produces the wind that billows in the sails. How much faster a sailing ship is than one powered by oars! In times of stillness we can still fall back on our talents of independence – thus ensuring forward motion – but true progress is gained only with the help of our friends.
Think about the captain of a sailing ship, as opposed to the rower. The captain does not spend his time toiling at the oars. The ship is moving of its own, powered by the immense winds that swirl about. With such freedom, the captain has time to direct, rather than having to spur himself on. Instead of pushing himself towards his goal, he simply has to point his ship in the right direction.
This is the power of a unified team of like-minded souls. As individuals, independent though we may be, there is plenty of aspiration, but what can we produce? As a team, not only do we glide toward our destination with facility, but we also enjoy the pleasure of reaching there together.