turns out, you need other people, and that’s how it’s supposed to be

Any expert is a proxy that will simplify the books and knowledge you don’t want to spend the time learning about. Theoretically, you could become the foremost expert on North Eastern moss, but we trust the sites on Google that break it down more effectively into what we need to know. Trust is involved for so many of our actions because we are limited individuals. There is only so much time in the day, and only so much effort and focus we can exert. When we find ourselves at a loss, we ask. Or rather, we should ask.

Even though we are social creatures that thrive and require social connections, we also have a deep desire to be independent. We want to be able to exist without our social matrix. “Surviving in the Wilderness” videos get so many views because we want to know that we could do it. We want to know that we aren’t dependent on others, that we have value in and of ourselves. The issue with that line of thought is that almost all of our values matter in relation to other people. We want to be individuals, almost in spite of our relation to a network, but that in itself creates a relationship. We value other people, even though we may claim that other’s opinions don’t matter.

So, what do we do? Give up any semblance of individuality and commit to the needs of the whole without complaint?

Absolutely not. We need other people, but that doesn’t destroy the value of the individual. Some differences, some values should not be thrown away just because the majority disagrees. It is good and important that we want to be independent. By interacting with the group and offering up the differences we have, we both gain value as an individual and support the whole. Sometimes we don’t realize how we have value, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Simply by living and experiencing things, we can offer different perspectives, different natural abilities,  and even just being there to listen to others can do incredible good.

We can do great things as individuals but pretending like we don’t need other people will only make us miserable. So ask others when you don’t know what to do. If no one knows, then take your best guess and maybe you’ll be able to help someone else that falls into the same situation.

but what even is kindness anyways

Kindness is one of those mysterious things where you don’t exactly know how to pin it down at times, but you know it’s there. People who are kind just feel that way, and when we really think about it, it takes us a while to come up with a specific example. When we talk to strangers, we can sense a bit of their personality, and even right after we’ve met them, we assume how nice they are based upon it.

Kindness is a level of love that any two individuals can share. It means respect for the other person’s opinions, genuine compassion and interest in their life, and taking time out to do something the other person needs, or might find difficult on their own. Sharing food is often seen as kind because you’re directly restricting your own well being to give someone something they might require.

Yet, kindness is still mysterious because if you’re not used to it or not in very specific situations, it’s not clear what the right, nice thing to do is. Take the example I gave before with sharing your food with a small animal, like they typically show in movies to prove the protagonist is a good person. That feeding might teach animals in real life to become dependent on humans, which increases the likelihood they’ll be hurt because they’re hanging around humans too much. Furthermore, the closest animals we typically could feed are the common species that don’t need the extra food. Not feeding a pigeon isn’t going to kill them, they’re going to hop over to the next family and try their luck again. My point, regardless of your opinion on pigeons, is that kindness is a broad term, and there will always be ways to justify not taking action, for better or worse.

It’s okay to not know how to be kind. We get out of practice, and some people are naturally more compassionate than others. However, we should strive for it, as unnatural as it may seem. We won’t always know what the best, most sincere, and respectful route of action is. Life is ambiguous, but we can always be better. It’s a matter of keeping our eyes open and seeing where we can help. A good starting point is getting into the habit if literally asking, “Hey, is there anything I can do to help?”

why thank you

Gratitude is weird. It’s like a human reboot, your self thought-processes get reset by the realization: “Wow. I can’t do anything on my own, these people have supported me so much! ” And it’s the truth! As individualistic, self-starter, and ambitious as we may be, we can do nothing alone. Our psyche is made to work and connect with others! When we are at our best, it’s because we’ve had the social support to get there.

However, gratitude is something we need to actively fight ourselves for. We need to be thankful, but it can be really hard to drag ourselves away from the tired thoughts of the day. It takes practice to stop, just sit still, and appreciate how far you’ve progressed and how much of that is due to other people. It takes self control and it’s a skill that you build up over time.

However, there is a tendency to shy away from gratitude because of egocentric tendencies. After all, if you work hard, you want to be acknowledged for that work! We’re biased because we always experience how much trouble a task is for us first hand, and the trouble other people face second hand. Sure, other people have given us support, but our pride wants to play it down because it will make our own worth seem less. However, why do we want that worth in the first place? Or rather, who are we trying to impress by waving around how valuable we are? Being grateful doesn’t take away from you, it only adds to others. So be thankful! Make a little list and personally thank some important individuals in your life! We can achieve great things, but never alone.

pride?

Pride is a concept, but it is also a question. Some cultures have valued it more than others, but it has existed in practically, if not totally, in all. It is tied to dignity, as well as foolishness. Pride is a way of seeing yourself as set apart from others. When someone says they have to “maintain their pride”, it often relates to their moral character and values. So what is pride? Is it a love and distinction? Or is it holding values? Maybe is it a love of certain values that is set apart?

One interesting thing about pride however, is that it is almost always placed upon a concept. A people don’t necessarily love their nation, they love the idea of that nation, the feelings and stereotypical emblems of that place or people. Pride is based upon symbols, often a more idealistic view of what the true thing is. Therefore, however, pride is by nature always an overestimation or extreme version of reality. As data points in some hypothetical graph, you could narrow down all the points and times a parent and child interacted. You could take into account every variable! But the pride that parent has in their child is more than the sum it’s parts because it’s the emotional impact that really ties home the bond they share.

Emotions are hard to deal with. Pride is a question, because it usually doesn’t “feel” wrong. To some extent, it is healthy to love and hold loyalty to some concepts and values. However, pride is also dangerous because if you always keep comparing reality to the heady notions, there’s going to be a bit of a disconnect. You’ll miss the earth with your head in the clouds. People each have their own emotions and experiences, but what connects us is the nitty gritty, reality of existence. Losing the sight of other’s experiences, setting you and your own ideals too far apart, makes us dehumanize others.

Pride is a question, but it is also something that grows within us. Let’s just be sure to mind the garden, so that we can see other people and the value they have.