March 10, 2017
Law Six: We Need One Another
Why is it that babies in orphanages die without human affection? Why is it that the physical growth of babies is stunted when they are not held regularly? Why is it that long-term solitary confinement is considered by the psychiatric community as torture? It seems that the human body and the human mind were not designed to last in isolation.
In 1624, when poet John Donne wrote that “No man is an island, entire of itself”, he was making a pretty straightforward observation about us. That is, we cannot be whole and cutoff from our fellow humans at the same time. More simply put: We need each other.
This idea has held true throughout time. And, it would be difficult to argue with it in its most primitive sense: Surviving birth. The fact that we cannot survive for even a day without another human being for the first year of our life says something about who we are as a species. As babies, we are helpless. So, at a minimum, we need other people at least until we can walk. (Then, hopefully, a benevolent pack of wolves will come and raise us up.)
Insert the fact here that as a species, because we cannot self-replicate, we need each other on a universal scale of genetic existence. It’s beginning to look like Law Six is unavoidable. It is impossible for any one of us to exist from start-to-finish without another human being.
Looking beyond the basic biology of survival, a case can continue to be made for our interdependence on one another during all stages of life.
Perhaps we can agree that it is unlikely that we have been put here simply to survive and endure; if the natural world is any indicator of our ‘purpose’ here, we are here to grow and change in relationship to our environment. So, the question becomes, is our innate ‘non-islandness’ present, too, when it comes to thriving?
The answer seems to be: yes. In general, throughout time and across the globe, human beings have organized their individual lives and actions around hubs of other human beings and their individual lives and actions.
Even if we are loners or those who reject society, we are relying on the knowledge and infrastructure of the past for personal points of comparison. That is, we still stand upon the foundation of those who have come before us to define and create our present selves. We are, after all, social creatures as well as transcendent ones—that is, we seem naturally inclined to want (maybe need) to improve ourselves and our situations. And, we connect with other humans past and present to achieve this.
This is not to say that every person on earth is meant to be joyfully joining arms in harmonious co-evolution. No way. There are plenty of people who choose to live in isolation or to walk an ascetic path, which is, in fact, a reaction against the communal quality of our basic human nature. And, embedded in every reaction is an acknowledgement. Ironic, in a way, is the fact that these outliers are just as interdependent as anyone else. This is because anything that creates a counterpoint is in direct relationship with its opposite. The one defines the other; without the one, the other cannot exist.
We know light only because there is darkness.
The hermit, for example, decides to live away from others because of others, or some quality of the community that is intolerable to him. In this case, society guided his decision to live in opposition to social norms—it gave him something to react against and define himself by; without others, he would not have to become a hermit at all.
As we evolve as individuals, we don’t all need one another in the same exact same ways. There is clearly a spectrum of human-to-human needs in which we participate to various degrees, which is fortunate because it allows for the astonishing variety of our interactions; this keeps things interesting. Nevertheless, we need each other, none of us exist in a vacuum.
Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.
Zach Carlsen is the grateful lead blogger at StrengthsLife.com
His strengths of Ideation, Connectedness, Input, Strategic, and Empathy have taken him all over the world. He is an inventor, athlete, joyous wanderer/wonderer, translator, poet, and Gallup Certified Strengths Coach.