Two centuries ago, Sam Smiles made the observation that we would have “remained uncivilized but for the savings and accumulations made by our forefathers – the savings of skill, or art, or invention, and of intellectual culture.” This remains as true today as it did then.
Nearly every physical item you use began as a thought in other people’s minds. Look around your home. Your table, your chair, your bed, your electronics, your car, even your house, all of it was invented by someone other than you. And you’ve never met any of these people.
This notion isn’t limited to physical items. The language you speak, the manner in which you communicate, even the way you prepare your food was mostly someone else’s idea. What exactly have any of us contributed to this?
There is no harm in admitting we all benefit from society in some way. Even history’s most notable minds at best added only small increments to the massive ocean of human ideas. As great a mind as Isaac Newton was, he slept on a bed he didn’t invent and under a roof he didn’t design just like we all do.
The point isn’t to drop everything and find a way to start contributing, as worthy as that might be. What’s important here is that even though we should praise self-sufficiency and individuality, none of us should ever overlook the tremendous value we all gain by merely being a part of humanity.