Monday, November 22, 2004

Zero Sum Theology

I've been thinking about how many issues in life are really zero sum matters. That is, if you add to one thing you necessarily take away from another.

The main example that I've been considering is theat of independence. Many folks like to think that independence is a good thing; but as my senior pastor noted, the dark side of independence is loneliness. He didn't say so, but I think the reason is that relationships are essentially zero sum; they are a mixture of autonomy or independence and connectedness or intimacy. To the extent that you are independent or autonomous, you are not connected or intimate. RTo put it another way, to the extent that you claim to have independence i a relationship, to that same extent you actually don't have a relationship.

People seem to thrive on the idea of beinf independenc, but that jsut means the are disconnected from other people, out of relationship. Think about it; the ultimate in indpendence is hermitage. Can you imagine really wanting to live that way? I can't.

I think the reason why people speak of independence so highly is that it is luxury. In our affluent society we can accomplish so much without other people that we can tout independence as a virtue. Back it he day (whenever that was) when we really needed each other to accomplish anythig important ( like survival) I don't think anyone really talked about the virtue opf independence. They probably talked more about the value of community, of interdependence, of relationship.

I don't have a shred of real evidence to back this thinking up really, no sociological reports or studies. It just makes sense to me. Of course, to the extent that it does make sense to me the converse doesn't.

Sense too is zero sum. Go figure.

3 comments:

Jordan said...

That was an interesting thought PB. I have been thinking about independence a lot as of late. Most of this thinking has pertained to the issue of romantic relationship. I wonder does one loose himself if he commits to become one with another of the opposite sex (eg. Biblical marriage). For example does one consent to giving up his likes, dislikes and individual activities to appease the other. Say Mr. X really enjoys comics or music or something of that nature. If Mr. X commits to marriage with Mrs. Y who hates the activity in question does he loose that part of himself as a comprimise? Can one be independent and commited or is that a myth? Anyway keep blogging, they get me thinking.

Kim said...

Jordan, I believe that in the Biblical marriage relationship the word you are looking for is more than likely interdependence. The two become one flesh not two half fleshes or is that fleshi (lol). Becoming one flesh is not an instantaneous event. It comes from months and years of growing together in Christ. Yes, sometimes you may need to give up something that your spouse doesn't care for, but also she may discover the importance of something to you and support what you may be doing.
Just my thoughts.

whirligirl said...

jordo, you call it 'compromise' - i think it should more correctly be called 'love'. #1 if she truly loved her husband she would not demand he discard that element of himself. #2 if he truly loved her, he would be willing to make that sacrifice if it were necessary. this morning i was reading in a secular publication that it is a common misconception that marriage is easy. it is anything but. like kim said, becoming one flesh is not an instantaneous thing - it takes much time and struggle. but what it results in - also a gradual process - is as pb said, 'interdependence', a relationship that allows you to survive through all kinds of experiences, both bad and good.