I found myself looking on two words this morning: steadfast and dependent.
Steadfast means “fast-fixed” – it’s like saying unmovable twice. There are certain things that we want people to be steadfast in, like love and loyalty. There are other things it’s good to have some movement in, such as ways of thinking and beliefs and attitudes as new information becomes available.
Dependent means “hanging down from.” In its extreme, I can’t do anything until you tell me to, or, I’ll do whatever you tell me to.
Groundbreaking astronomerMaria Mitchell considers relationships from the perspective of the planets, Maria Popova commenting:
‘Mitchell resolves to have more balanced relationships and reflects on how unwise it is to turn a single person into the centre of gravity in one’s emotional universe. Instead, one’s attachments should be distributed among many people, each fulfilling a different need — one providing intellectual stimulation, another rendering us “more elastic and buoyant, more happy and radiating more happiness, because we know him,” another inspiring in us such “warmth of affection” that “our hearts grow as if in a summer feeling.”’*
In his book Vital Friends, Tom Bath names eight different kinds of friend, a healthy group of friends comprising different kinds of friendship offered to us by a number of people and not one. Imagine someone saying, I’m the only friend you’ll ever need. Creepy. Mitchell writes about a more health dependence:
“Who judges a work of art and sees only with his own eyes? Who listens to a lecture and hears only with his own ears? We turn aslant as we stand before the picture to see what good judges are looking. We open the guide book to see what we ought to admire…. Insensibly our judgment is inspired by that of those around us. It is not a weakness to be deplored. We were more than conceited did we rate ourselves so much above the rest of the world that we needed no outward aids to judgment. We were born dependent, our happiness is in the hands of others. Our character is moulded by them and receives its colouring from them as much as our feeling relates the parental impress.”*
What Mitchell is anticipating, it seems to me, is interdependence, our interrelatedness towards creating a better personal and societal future: an interdependent-dance, we might conceive: a nexus of steadfast and dependent. When we each know ourselves and bring who we are and what we can do to others for their and our betterment, then we are introducing the greater imagination and creativeness through interrelatedness into the world.
(*From Maria Popova’s BrainPickings: Trailblazing Astronomer Maria Mitchell on How We Co-Create Each Other and Recreate Ourselves Through Friendship.)