Why Self-Sufficiency Matters

The quick answer goes something like this……..

Self-sufficiency grants us autonomy.  Personal autonomy (and responsibility) is a defining characteristic of a free individual.  One who is Agathos will always be a free individual even if held in shackles because that is their character.

For more eloquent answers we can turn to two other worthy voices.

Let us affront and reprimand the smooth mediocrity and squalid contentment of the times, and hurl in the face of custom, and trade, and office, the fact which is the upshot of all history, that there is a great responsible Thinker and Actor working wherever a man works; that a true man belongs to no other time or place, but is the centre of things. Where he is, there is nature. He measures you, and all men, and all events.

…………..Let a Stoic open the resources of man, and tell men they are not leaning willows, but can and must detach themselves; that with the exercise of self-trust, new powers shall appear; that a man is the word made flesh, born to shed healing to the nations, that he should be ashamed of our compassion, and that the moment he acts from himself, tossing the laws, the books, idolatries, and customs out of the window, we pity him no more, but thank and revere him, — and that teacher shall restore the life of man to splendor, and make his name dear to all history.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance.  1841

Warning: If you are reading this then this warning is for you. Every word you read of this useless fine print is another second off your life. Don’t you have other things to do? Is your life so empty that you honestly can’t think of a better way to spend these moments? Or are you so impressed with authority that you give respect and credence to all that claim it? Do you read everything you’re supposed to read? Do you think everything you’re supposed to think? Buy what you’re told to want? Get out of your apartment. Meet a member of the opposite sex. Stop the excessive shopping and masturbation. Quit your job. Start a fight. Prove you’re alive. If you don’t claim your humanity you will become a statistic. You have been warned- Tyler.

Tyler Durden in “Fight Club”  by Chuck Palahniuk

Alright, what if I choose to become this bold unburdened figure beholden to none?   Does that mean I have to live on some remote farm and make all my own clothing and brew my own beer and mold my own musket balls in the fireplace?  That doesn’t sound half bad actually and it would be a valid ideological choice (and a lot of hard labor).  A life lived on one’s own land left to one’s own business is a compelling dream.   It would be a very concrete way to increase one’s self-sufficiency.  It is also not a likely scenario for most of us.  For most of us, participation in the world means navigating through complex interactions and entangling forces whose structure is increasingly determined by technology and bureaucracy.  We work for companies, we pay bills, we watch the government do whatever it does, we absorb media designed to shape our values and desires.  Claiming autonomy is not as simple as nodding in agreement with stirring words (at least I found them stirring) like those above.

Autonomy is a self-discipline to be practiced.  It is not accomplished in just one part of our lives.  It’s learning how to be self-sufficient and to maintain the individual sovereignty of our minds and our bodies, our dignitas and our virtus.

I don’t have any quick simple formula how to go about this.  Discovering how best to cultivate my own self-reliance is part of what my musings here are all about.  It is a fundamental concept.  I’ll let you know what I figure out.

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