For many people today, when they hear or read the phrase “the circle of life” the mind is drawn to an image of a baboon holding a young lion cub (Simba) in presentation to an assembly of jungle animals; the opening scene from the cartoon movie The Lion King. This is also the closing scene, with the exception of a new cub, the son of Simba. Both at the opening and closing scenes, the song “The Circle of Life” is sung. This idea was not new or original to this movie, but has existed in the human understanding of life for eons. An ancient riddle asks: What starts out on four legs, goes to two, and ends with three legs? The answer is a human. We start out crawling (four legs), progress to walking (two legs) and finish with walking with the aid of a cane (three legs). There are many examples in our modern day we can draw upon to illustrate the “circle of life”, so I don’t need to belabor the idea with multiple references.
However, I do want to discuss the idea of a part of life that we continually struggle against, but never fully escape, and finally return to at the end of life. The idea of INDEPENDENCE. As babies, we are by necessity totally dependent for every need (we haven’t quite figured out what a want is yet). As we begin to develop the ability to walk, we begin with greater vigor to express our “independence”. The greatest struggle of adolescents is the struggle to define their personal independence, their “place” in the future. Eventually after (hopefully) a life full of work, sharing, health and activity, we find ourselves back at the beginning when we are again dependent upon others to provide the human services we can no longer provide for ourselves. In many people, this is the most difficult stage in life. A baby is not “angered” by its inability of independence, a baby has never “experienced” independence. As a baby moves from infant to toddler, it is motivated by the “independence” of others around them; they can leave the room and return at their own will, they can eat what and when they want; they can….
It is a misunderstanding of the idea of “independence” to define it as an ability to do what we want. While the ability to employ the will in our activity is a major function of “independence”, true independence is the informed will acting on its own. Independence does not mean that we are licensed to make our own rules, to set our own standards and rules regardless of “social norms”. Independence is the ability to make informed decisions that incorporate and respects the principles of the “social norm”, yet may disagree with what is considered “normal”. In human history, there has only been one person who was wholly independent – Jesus the Christ. For Jesus Christ, the “Social Norm” was not defined by the society but by society’s creator, the Father.
In our physical lives we may start out and end up in diapers; we may start out and end up needing someone to feed us, bathe us and dress us. (i.e. the circle of life) But, however or wherever life takes us, we really are never independent. We need a “village” of people to provide our food, our tools, our education, our medications, our smart phones. As responsible adults, we are never “free” of our responsibility to provide to and for others what we are able and capable to provide. (For many differing reasons, some people may shirk this responsibility, but they are not excused from the responsibility.) A correct and healthy society is one where everyone recognizes their gifts and talents, and offers those for the benefit of all. A healthy society recognizes that the gifts and talents will vary greatly from person to person, and not judge according to some arbitrary scale of value. A healthy society is a society that recognizes and embraces a mutual interdependence.