By Troy Headrick

Life is like a great meandering stroll through a vast wilderness of ever-changing scenery.  Such a long tramp is bound to change us, so it’s highly likely we’ll undergo one transformation after another as we travel.

I was an only child during the earliest stages of my “journey.”  I spent the first few years of my life living in a quiet, rural setting where neighbors were few and far between.  When I was eight years old, my parents adopted a boy, a young fellow six years my junior.  Because the two of us had little in common, we grew apart as we grew up and are now entirely estranged from one another. 

My point is that I developed a solitary streak as a child.  Such a life, though, helped me become a very independent and self-sustaining young person.

When I went off to university, I began to realize that I needed people.  Life was suddenly very busy and challenging.  I had to work as much as I could to pay my bills while studying full time.  I now had lots of coworkers I had to collaborate with and needed study partners to make sure I did as well as I could academically.  My strategy, for the latter, was to pay attention during the first few days of class and then approach those students who said the most insightful things during discussions.  I would introduce myself to such classmates, let them know that I had noticed they seemed to be smart and serious, and ask them if they’d like to form a study group.

One of the most valuable lessons I learned while studying with others is that no one of us is in full possession of the full story or the “truth” as pertains to any subject matter.  We all have our small view, as if peeking through a peephole.  We perceive what bit of the whole we are capable of seeing and no more.  But adding one’s partial truth to many others provides a fuller view.  The only way of overcoming limitations is through sharing, through listening to what others have to say about things we are interested in knowing more about.

We are all familiar with the John Donne quote “No man is an island.”  As we age and life becomes more complex while our energies slowly wane, this becomes more and more true.  When I think about the person I am now as opposed to the Troy I was during childhood, I see that my transformation from a solitary loner to one who believes that the best of the individual can only be made manifest in the company of others is a noteworthy change.

Today, my best ideas almost always result from interacting with talented collaborators.  Engaging in conversation.  Brainstorming with smart people.  Debating matters with those who see things differently than I do—all these provide opportunities to stretch myself intellectually and to get a good thinking workout.

I want to finish by thanking all those who partner with me on the many pursuits I’m engaged in.  Thanks to the other Pointless Overthinking writers and to those who comment on my writings.  Thanks to my team of tutors who help me keep the writing center at college up and running at full speed.  Thanks to all of those I team up with and occasionally disagree with.  Through you, I find myself.  Through you, I become a bigger, better, smarter version of me. 

Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found here.

29 thoughts on “Others

  1. Independence can be viewed as a compound, a combination of external elements, unavoidable co-dependencies. In this case, other humans. It doesn’t come from within but is a result of external conditioning. Your words so elegantly define the concept of individualistic wholeness. Life is a journey that can never be traversed in complete solitude. I’m not taking into account the many mystic tales of detachment from the world and the self. I’m talking about humans like you and me. We choose bits and pieces from others around us, not only in the intellectual sense, but also emotionally. We allow ourselves to work through our gathered collections, experiencing their effects, preserving or discarding them with time. Ego may speak for itself, but we all are incomplete without each other. The guru and the pupil reside in all.

    1. Hi. Thanks for the kind words. You called my piece elegant, but I think your comment was even more elegant. You’ve said so much in a very few words. Do you mind if I ask you what sort of work you do or about your background? You sound like someone who has looked deeply into things, and you are a very strong writer too.

      1. I am honored by your words, Thank you. I studied to be a Computer Engineer but life made me an observer and writer. I love writing, it saved me. Life teaches us a lot, especially when it’s not so kind. Whenever you get a chance, please visit my website: terveengill.com. It’s not all of who I am and what I do, but it’s an idea of what I aspire to be. Thank you so much 🙂

      2. Thank you. I’ll happily visit your site. If you’d like to leave a direct link here, so that others can more easily read your work, please feel free to do so.

    1. I am. This was my way of examining the lesson taught by that parable. Exactly why we need others. And it’s not enough to keep our “truths” to ourselves. All these truths must be shared as a way of building community and collective knowledge and wisdom. Thanks for the comment, Fred.

      1. If only the whole world would have understood the importance of “collective” in “knowledge” to piece together the “truth”, then Religions would have met its original purpose – uniting instead of dividing.

        Reminds me of my another post – “Of Minds” – how the spirit of Religion aimed to be one thing, but became something else.

      2. I can’t agree enough! In the acquisition of knowledge and wisdom, we have build a hybrid model that adds all the various wisdoms into one collective understanding. Would you mind posting a link to the blog you’re referrring to here? Many of us would like to read it. Thanks.

      3. The difficulty is in our exclusionary mindset. The paradigm is that if A is correct, then B must be incorrect. The “only one answer” fallacy.

        If I am right (Most people have this as a very powerful bias.) then you are wrong. If I cede that you could be right, then I must be incorrect and have lost the “contest.” Why discussion is usually viewed as a contest (an argument) and not a mutual seeking of truth could be a assive post unto itself..

        We are usualy unwilling to try to view things through anther erson’s eyes for fear it would somehow invalidate our own vision. Reality is such that A and B could both be true or both be false.

      4. Unfortunately, far too few people allow nuance in their thinking. You mention human bias in people. We’re certainly biased toward wanting simple answers for things. Reality requires complexity and nuance. We are all familiar with the either/or fallacy. Plus, as you correctly point out, people are deeply invested in “winning” when it comes to debating or discussing difficult and controversial issues. This bias may be stronger in the US than in other places because Americans like to categorize people as “winners” and “losers.” I’m amazed at how often supposedly intelligent people use sports metaphors when they try to explain and understand the world and everything that goes on in the world. As usual, Fred, you’ve left a really insightful response. Thanks.

  2. There are two facets of mind – one that needs solitude and the other that needs company – both are equally important because the function of Life, as an individual of a generation, is to gather knowledge through company, transform it into wisdom through solitude and pass it on through company, for the next generation to build upon it, and the cycle goes on towards progress.

    1. Thanks, Oneiridescent. Please check out the comment I made right above yours. In it, I made exactly the same points you just did. i like how you present this as sort of “pendulum” motion. We swing toward solitude and then away from it. Without this rhythm, we miss something.

  3. Thank you Troy – your words have been a source of inspiration to me over the past year since I stumbled upon this wonderful blog. It is a honour to now write for it. The debt of gratitude is mine. 🙏

    1. Thanks, AP2. I want to say exactly the same things to you. I am always enriched by the ideas presented in the wonderful pieces you publish here. And the number of responses you get is indicative that I’m not alone in feeling that way about your writing. We are so lucky to have you at PO.

  4. Troy, a truly insightful post! I read it with great interest. America has a tradition of emphasizing individualism. Independence and cooperation are both valuable skills! <3 All the best!

    1. Hi, Chery. It’s nice to hear from you. I think you’ve done a really good job (better than I did) trying to distill what I wanted to say. I guess solitude worked for me in my youth, and then, as I began to engage the complex world as someone moving into adulthood, I found that my strategies and approaches had to change. Both were beneficial in their own way and at the appropriate time. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  5. Beautifully said, Troy. The older I get, the more I realize how magical it is to interact with others. Even if it’s for a brief time, and even if the goal isn’t achieved, there is so much gained simply by living. By talking, and thinking. Each and every one of us leaves a mark. Thank you, my friend. 🕊

  6. Discussion about disagreements, with viewpoints healthy expressed and debated with gusto, alongside kindness and a willingness to learn, have been some of the best times in my life. It is only in the past five or so years that I have felt comfortable sharing parts of myself with others, some of which involves disagreeing with certain things quite strongly. It has been eye opening, helping me to learn about myself, and also to realise that meaningful change only happens when we put in the effort with others alongside us, providing their invaluable knowledge just as we provide ours.

    Thank you for sharing this, Troy. I always find myself thinking deeply about how I can take my thoughts, and turn them into consistent and helpful action for positive change. As a personal example, continuing to write, edit, and move this book of mine ever closer to publishing! Thank you!

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