We’ve all been exposed to the films, books, and for some possibly the first-hand experience, in which a slave refers to their owner as “Master”. How did that terminology, in that context, ever come about? If looking at definitions in various dictionaries online, it seems to make a great deal of difference whether we’re using the word as a noun, adjective or verb.
As a noun, “Master” seems to most commonly mean someone, or something, in charge. Again there is the illustration of a slave owner, or the head of a household. Or it could mean a part, or aspect, of a mechanical or electrical system which is somehow central, upon which the functioning of the other parts or aspects of the system depend. Such as a “master” switch.
In these usages, as a noun, it seems there is consistently the principle of dependence involved. The Master is something or someone needed so everything or everybody else can function. However, is the reality between a mechanical and an organic system really that similar? Does the same level of dependency between a master and a slave component within a mechanical or electronic system really ever exist between human beings? Has it ever?
Within a machine or device, if the “master” component is not functioning properly, the other components of the machine or device which are “slave” to that component are useless, in every sense of the word. They have no capacity for independent action. Their entire reason for existing is negated.
Is that ever the case when it’s human beings involved rather than mechanical components? I suppose one might argue that relative to a certain specific situation, say a factory which produces a sophisticated electronic product, all the production workers in the factory are dependent upon the person who designed the product in the first place. It definitely may be said (changing usage of the word “master” momentarily to a verb) that the designer has mastered some skill or area of knowledge and is therefore (changing to an adjective) a “master” of some skill. But if that factory closes down, are the production workers going to be totally rendered useless? Totally impotent and meaningless from that point forward as machine components would be? Are human beings ever so totally, immutably, dependent upon a role as a component in a system that, should that role cease to exist, their entire meaning, their ability to function in any respect, is lost? While some people may have felt that way at some time or another, ultimately, the answer is a resounding “NO”. Human beings and mechanical components are not inherently the same in this regard.
But a particular human being may be so conditioned, so deceived by the circumstances of their life, of their environment, that they believe this level of dependency to be the truth of their life. And while a profound physiologic disability of some kind may indeed render an individual totally dependent upon another for their physical survival, in general, for the vast majority of human beings, this is not at all inherently the case. If a person does hold a belief in such a level of dependency upon another, it is the result of that person having somehow been presented with and having accepted an illusion, a lie, as the reality of their life.
For unlike mechanical components, human beings are inherently capable of independently adjusting, adapting, to new, different, circumstances. It takes work, it can be difficult (or not) depending upon many internal and external variables, but the ability to attain this level of mastery over one’s own life is totally within the scope of human existence. In fact, I would say that ultimately this level of mastery over our own life is an inherent aspect of our destiny as sentient beings.
Further, I would say that nobody can ever truly, completely gain mastery over the life of another. For one thing, we have too much to do with the inherent task we face of mastering our own life. Any time we spend trying to become master over the life of another is time spent in futility. Or worse, possibly time spent counter-productively within our own developmental imperative?
So, while we may be able, at some time or another, for a finite amount of time, be able to dominate certain aspects of the lives of one or more people; we cannot ever truly become the master over the life of another human being. Further, to attempt to dominate over the lives of others, for anything other than a benevolent purpose relative to a task with specific time and place parameters, such as a surgeon dominating the activities taking place within an operating room, is to enter into a relationship with that person or persons which will ultimately result in ill-fitting contortions of life for all concerned.
Yet all this is not to say that we cannot, through truly understanding ourselves, gain understanding, insight, into the lives of others. We can, and by doing so we can and do become more valuable as a friend, a partner, a parent. We are more able to relate to others and to interact with others, with those we love, in activities which are mutually enjoyable and to mutual developmental benefit.
Ultimately, we are social beings. Independent social beings, each with our own free will and our own developmental imperative. However, we all need life-sustaining, meaningful interactions with one another. In fact, we need to learn to live and work cooperatively, to support and be an asset to one another. Is that a paradox? Not at all, what it is, is, simply, the inherent, wonderful, nature of our lives.
When we truly realize this truth about the inherent nature of our lives, when we leave behind the ego trips, the grandiose, narcissistic and/or megalomaniacal schemes to dominate the lives of others, then we can truly engage in discovering, and mastering, the unlimited wonders, the amazing potential available to us, which are inherent within each and every one of us!