Our money is family money… really. It is one big pot that each takes from as needed. This is radically different from the independent model my parents used to raise me. I did chores for which I got a salary. I suppose the idea here is to prepare their child for the employer / employee relationship that lay ahead.
That was not to be my model for raising my kids. Here, everyone in the family does chores, not as a job, but as simply what needs doing in practical daily living. A shared life involving shared responsibility makes life feel more deeply shared. This involves each person taking on what they are most naturally capable of doing. Chapter 17 served as my model, When his task is accomplished and his work done, the people all say, “It happened to us naturally”.
Nature, backed by experience as my model, teaches me that turning over as much responsibility to people as they can handle, regardless of their age, makes them feel more responsible. This certainly helps make life feel more meaningful. I know that was my parent’s intention; they just didn’t understand that their approach often worked against this. Having an opportunity to take responsibility is the most direct way to feel connected to one’s group. This fosters core life satisfaction and mental health. No doubt, the failure of modern culture to offer children this opportunity helps make drugs the compelling escape they become.
Over the years, I’ve noticed a common cultural trend to not delegate responsibility, but maintain control instead. I guess this stems from an innate paternalistic and materialistic instinct to manage situations ‘better’, i.e., protect us from ourselves, and any mistakes we might make. The fact is, control and responsibility are inseparable. Giving a person more responsibility means giving them more control and the freedom to stumble, make mistakes… and learn!
This CBS video, 4 Generations Under One Roof in India, is about a 78-year-old blind man who accepts his disability and feels his way to work every day. He lives comfortably with his 13 family members in India who all share one bank account!
This story helps reveal something our culture abandoned in its obsessive pursuit of personal independence and self-reliance. As a result, we ironically seem to be even more inclined to avoid individual responsibility, but instead point the finger and ‘sue their pants off’. Add to this, a growing sense that our country is increasingly becoming a ‘nanny state’, so to speak.
To be fair, our country is not alone in this by any means. My point is that the virtue of independence is an illusion. We are a socially interdependent species — period. Pushing an essentially un-natural virtue of independence onto a people must backfire in the end. As that old TV ad used to say, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature”. So why do we try to? Surely, this is the inevitable result of a modern society structured to meet the needs of a capitalist, consumer oriented, growth-based civilization. Cancer is ‘growth-based’ too. Oops! As chapter 30 warns, A creature in its prime doing harm to the old, is known as going against the way. That which goes against the way will come to an early end. Nothing qualifies better as “the old” than Nature itself. Nature is not ‘growth-based’; it is more balance-based. Global warming may be the least of our problems going forward. Even so, Mother Nature will rebalance everything in the long-term.