Self-reliance, in it’s simplest form, is being able to get by on your own resources without needing outside help. I often say that my family as a unit strives for self-reliance, however that definition doesn’t properly fit what we actually are striving for. There are many things we would love to be able to do ourselves, without outside help, but in reality we all depend on the outside world to some extent. We don’t wish to isolate ourselves from our community. We simply don’t want to rely on every basic need to be met by someone or something else.
For instance we want to raise our own fiber, milk, and meat animals. We can’t create them, and we’re not foraging for them in the wild, so already we will have to go to someone who can supply our needs. We will have to buy books, use the Internet and electronic devices to talk to others about the animals, buy supplies to build them homes, buy tools and such for shearing/milk storage/etc, potentially buy feed and other things to keep our animals healthy, etc. We would never simply acquire the animals we need, and then run off into the forest thinking we need no other help or supplies from anyone ever again. That’s just not how you go about this.
What we would like is to grow a lot to most of our food. (Our dream would be to grow ALL of our food but let’s face it, there are going to be times I just want to go get sushi or a pizza or at least not have to make a meal from scratch). We could use plants and animals to create fiber for spinning/weaving/sewing/crocheting/etc, learn better blacksmithing skills to make things for our homestead, along with many other important skills. Growing our skill sets to potentially live more off grid is appealing, but in learning them we also wish to share them. Rather than living entirely alone, we could join or create a community of shared skills. A place where we could trade/barter for homegrown or crafted items, learn from others experiences, or learn things we may have never even thought of; all while making friends and companions who could call upon each other in times of need. That sort of life is what we want.
I have known of people who truly wish to live completely isolated, self-sufficient lives. What I didn’t really understand until recently was how many heathens think they need to live this way. They often follow different variants of the Nine Noble Virtues (please research this before taking it to be the Heathen Commandments), and take the idea of self-reliance beyond ‘trying not to be a burden’. I often have seen posts and memes (like the one to the right) about ‘not needing anyone’ or ‘being strong’, and part of me felt the need to yell: “Heck yeah! I don’t need anyone! I can make my own way if I have to!”
That isn’t necessarily true. I have responsibilities as a mother, and a wife. Even if I didn’t, I have always found support and help in family, friends and my community as I have tried to make my way. Unless you are living completely alone in the middle of some forest, you are in some way going to be connected to other people, even if completely indirectly. Trying to be more self-reliant in this case isn’t telling you to become Tarzan or Mowgli. It’s asking you to find ways to better and help yourself so you are not a burden on your family and/or community. Even with a disability or lack of skills there are many ways to actively help others and, in most cases, yourself.
My family strives to honor our gods and ancestors while helping ourselves and others in our journey to semi-self-sufficiency/reliance. I think it helps us to become “better” heathens by doing so. Isolation doesn’t help anyone. Our heathen blood or spiritual ancestors lived as part of a working community. The idea of the lone warrior isn’t something that should be perpetuated as what we need to work towards. It’s against human nature and just not realistic for most of us. So when I say my family and others are working towards self-sufficiency/self-reliance I am saying we want to learn skills to not have to rely on others as much, so that we can use those skills to contribute to our community. Self-Reliance is about bettering yourself, not cutting yourself off from the world; and there are so many ways to do just that.