It’s a dog-eat-dog world (by our own making). Though we come together and show solidarity now and then (say, during a flood or an earthquake), for most part of our lives we are so focussed on chasing our own little interests that everything else that makes life whole fades in a blur. The chase is hard work. It is stressful. Competition, changes in the common man’s way of life caused by technology and policies, vague and unreliable definitions of success – these factors disturb the human spirit and confuse the mind. Any rationalisation that is potent enough to numb the pain caused by this stress is absorbed by the mind like water on the desert sand. One such rationalisation is today’s idea of self-reliance.
To get a grip over the absurd reality of our times, one must faithfully subscribe to the ‘to each his own’ dictum of our society. The way we conduct ourselves during soul-testing, rush-hour traffic is an example that proves that our charity and kindness are (pretty severely) limited. Today, self-reliance is about having the means to afford things and services without asking anybody (but the banks) for help. If we earn enough to buy a car or a property and pay the loan all by ourselves, we are considered self-reliant. If we can get ahead in life without taking help from others, we’re considered ‘self-made’. In the process of gearing up our minds to not depend on others we’ve become mindless of others’ needs (not just rights). Where this has left us is in, as mentioned in the beginning, a dog-eat-dog world. What does self-reliance really mean? Here are three mandatories to live life truly self-reliant.
To do your own thing is great. But it is also important to do things on our own. Our busy schedules and the conveniences of our times have brought in a new culture that has made us skip cleaning up after us. The garbage heaps on our streets are just a reflection of our attitude to the cleanliness of our own personal spaces. We cannot expect anyone to keep things clean for us. We need to do it on our own. That’s the message from the garbage heap. To be truly self-reliant one must be able to do all household chores by themselves. It’s not enough to just possess the knowledge of how things are done. It is not enough to do it once in a while, or when the house-help does not turn up. It is to be done every single day.
Food, clothing, and shelter are the three basics of life. True self-reliance is attained when one reaches the point where they no longer have to depend (or at least, reduce their dependency) on the current transactional methods of economy to fulfil these basic needs. To grow your own food, to know how to build a house, to be able to care for our bodies by providing it with appropriate clothing according to the seasons – not seasons of the fashion world but the real world – is self-reliance.
If we cannot rely on anybody for the simple things like cleaning up our spaces – house and streets, how much more impossible it is to rely on others to keep our mental space clean, clear, and sharp enough to make the right decisions? To be truly self-reliant, we cannot subscribe to a way of life without looking at all the options available. Our family, financial, cultural and religious backgrounds play a huge role in our early years. As we grow mentally, it is our duty to research the truths and fallacies in our inherited beliefs by comparing them with other ways of life, cultures, and traditions. This exercise has to be done by the individuals themselves. Relying (without questioning) on any external authority, organisations, thought-leaders, or cultural groups to be guided in the right direction on life’s journey is a thoughtless act. To be truly self-reliant, we need to be able to think for ourselves.
To preserve life with cleanliness, order, and harmony is what makes one self-reliant. To be able to build a fire, cook a meal, pitch a tent, identify natures bounties based on their properties and use them well and wise for physical and mental growth, these are the traits the ancient man used to preserve life – his own and all of life around him. But the modern world is different. We need other things to learn. We need new knowledge. With changing ways of life, the idea of self-reliance too has changed. But to forget how to preserve life amid the superficialities of modern life of convenience and in the mad rush of competition will only make things worse and take away our freedom. It will leave us dependent on vague philosophies, ever-changing policies, and an idea of success that’s ambiguous. And there goes our self-reliance.