• Patrick McAndrew

What’s Happening to Self-Reliance?

Acquiring knowledge is so important!  “Well, duh…” we may say.  But our propensity to stray away from acquiring knowledge is more prevalent than we think.  Apparently 27% of US Adults didn’t read a book in the year 2014.  That doesn’t look like a large percentage, but in the grand scheme of things that’s HUGE!

I use to be one of those avid non-readers.  Up until a few years ago, I would read occasionally, but really, not that often.  It wasn’t until my significant other, Jules, inspired me to read more books that a flame emerged.  As I made reading a habit, I was amazed at how much I was learning!  I was learning so many cool and fascinating things that interested me, mostly from books!  “Who knew you could learn this much from books?” I thought.

It’s shockingly common in America that, once we leave school, the learning stops.  The books go away, and time is spent either at our jobs or at home relaxing, watching TV.  I’m all for catching up on the latest TV show and it is without a fact a great way to unwind after a long day’s work, but I believe it’s important to factor in some time that is going to benefit ourselves in the long run, both mentally and physically.  Reading is the exercise of the mind and we can learn a lot in a surprisingly short period of time.

But many of us are not reading anymore.  We aren’t learning anymore.  We aren’t retaining useful information.  Why not?  Because we don’t have to.  With our phones always within arm’s reach, why bother learning something new when we can just look it up and then forget about it when it no longer seems relevant?  Our phones have become like another limb that we are heavily reliant on for information, entertainment, and even convenient services.

This is where things get a little dicey.  The more reliant we become on our phones, the more we fall into a pattern of blind conformity.  Because society deems that we must have a certain app or have a social media page, we fall victim to it.  Because society has adopted on “always-on” mentally, we believe we must have our phones by our sides at all times “just in case.”  This reliance on an object (because it is just that, an object) is dangerous territory because we are connecting our own subjectivity and our own identity to an object that is outside of ourselves, outside of our physicality and spirituality.  We have begun to place so much value on these objects outside of ourselves that we no longer take the time to look inside of ourselves.  I’ve even heard people say, “My phone is my life!” or “My whole life is on my phone!”  What kind of life are we living if that’s the case?

I’m reminded of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay, “Self-Reliance.”  It’s important to develop our own ideas and follow those through rather than conforming without question.  While working in a community and on a team is of the utmost importance, I believe there is immense value in being mindful and developing your own thoughts.  Progress in the world would not be made if it weren’t for that.  We must develop our own philosophy of the world based off the knowledge we retain.  We want to avoid being wired and reliant on our phones to solve every problem or question we may encounter.

There sure is a lot more that I need to learn about life.  But as we look around and see the majority consuming rather than learning and retaining, our world’s problems are only going to continue growing.  We must believe that we can be without our phones.  To say it and do it are two completely different things.  We must be reliant on ourselves, alone, at some level, because if we are we will be able to come together as a community more easily and rely on one another when it comes to the important issues, instead of staying transfixed on a piece of plastic that spews largely unhelpful information all day.

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