Connected for Life
The other day I was having a conversation with a friend about the recent film, “The Ides Of March”. We talked about the cutthroat business of politics and the all too realistic portrayal in the story line. Loss of innocence, ego jousting and primal survival tactics were all at play. Later on in the day however, I began to see something else in that story. All of a sudden what became illuminated, drowning out all else, was the interdependence of all the characters: the chain reaction or domino effect of each person on the other.
As a good existentialist, I try to spend much of my time fostering the ideals of freedom and autonomy. Although I know rationally that we are all touching and impacting each other in seen and unseen ways, I am mostly conscious of myself as a single entity. I often forget that the most subliminal action will always cause a reaction, somewhere, somehow. As I sit here trying to take in the stark reality of this concept, I feel overwhelmed by the radical truth of it. Is it really possible that every move we make, every gesture and breath actually connects us to one another.
In evolutionary theory, Darwin tells us that we are all part of the process of natural selection. In other words, what we bring to the world in biological and adaptive traits, can predict who will survive and who will not. Competition is instinctive and all organisms vie for dominance. When one falls another rises, and on it goes in the chain of survival. Evident in this interwoven story is also a ruthless portrait of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Each person is motivated in the desire to attain, however distorted, their idea of personal fulfillment.
It is true that all species evolve in interaction with each other. Whether in conflict or harmony, this is the building block of life. Plants, animals, all cellular organisms, are dependent on one another. This co-evolutionary process creates new variations ad infinitum, and relationships continue to shift and reorganize, but never do we fully exist on our own.
Krishnamurti stated, “life is a process of constant movement in relationship…so it is important to understand what we mean by relationship, because society is built out of relationship and there can be no isolation. There is no such thing as living in isolation. That which is isolated soon dies”. While we are standing in the moment, however unconscious, of collaboration with others, we press to feel the rush of individuation, which always throws us back into the on-going dialectic of being and connection.
When Sartre talks about the transcendence of struggle through reciprocal cooperation and recognition, where does Darwin’s evolutionary premise fit in? Isn’t humankind necessarily and biologically driven to climb over one another, to get to the top of the pyramid to feel the momentary ecstasy of completion? Perhaps yes, but maybe someday the learning curve of evolution will somehow find its way to a gentler race to the finish line.
In this film, the fallen move off to die or wither in their corners, and the winners self-destruct under the illusion of success. And the viewer is reminded of the destructive potential of power and the loneliness of the human being who sacrifices values for a fleeting euphoria.
-- Bonnie Fitz-Gibbon
Krishnamurti, J. (1992). On relationship. New York, NY: Harper Collins.