The Old Man and His Camels: Why Independence Can Be Self-Destructive

Walking into the Berlin Wall

(If there were only two choices, I’d suggest that you read the last three paragraphs of this post carefully over the whole post hastily.  Those words hold a much more meaningful lesson than my own do.)

A strong propensity for dependency can be just as great a handicap in life as an obsession with independence.  As an American, I relate to the later very strongly.  Many of the decisions I’ve made throughout my life – whether productive or not – were solely executed through a lens of independence.  One in which the desired outcome would permit me to view myself as some type of lone ranger.

Independence is a glass ceiling.  The heroic image I possess of what an independent man is goes far beyond a reality that is possible.  As humans we are inherently dependent – on the earth and others.  A person’s existence can only be recognized in relation to another’s.  Thus, human identity itself is collective (sorry for the philosophical babble).

There are some lessons that I will never internalize no matter how many times I learn them.  And one of those lessons is the value of council.  More nights than I care to admit have been spent ripping my hair out.  Causing myself mental breakdowns by trying to solve on my own issues of both personal and social significance.  My greatest fear in these situations is rarely the worst possible outcome of the issue itself, but instead whether or not I will be able to solve it on my own.

Greek Amphitheater

Like many of you (I’m assuming), I’ve been raised to believe I’m on my own.  Success is often gauged by how self-reliant a person is.  And as a result I’ve noticed that people, or myself at the very least, have taken this to an extreme.  This extreme is self-destructiveness, and it’s all for prides sake.

The following is a story authored by an unknown Arabian mathematician some several thousand years ago.  Coming across it for the first time just a few hours ago, I was once again reminded of how valuable a fresh perspective can be in what seems to be the most clearly defined, personal, and meaningful problems.  I summarized it, and hope you get as much out of it as I did.

“There was once a wealthy old man who owned seventeen camels.  While on his deathbed, he declared that his eldest son was to inherit half of his herd, his middle son one third, and his youngest son one ninth. However, just after the old man passed, his sons discovered that seventeen could not be dived integrally by two, three, or nine.

A conflict promptly ensued, and the brothers decided that they would consult a wise old woman for help – hoping that she would have an answer to their situation.  The old woman gave much thought to the matter, but in the end she claimed to have no solution.

However, she did offer to the brothers just one of her own camels – to compensate them for the time lost awaiting her advice.  This gave the brothers a total heard of eighteen camels.  Thus, the eldest claimed nine, the middle son claimed six, and the youngest son claimed two.  This gave the brothers a combined total of seventeen camels – and not knowing who should take the remaining one camel, they decided to give it to the wise old woman.”

Always make sure that you’re willing to discover your eighteenth camel.

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Appologies for any gramatical errors.  This post was a bit rushed.

-Sepp

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