On July 4, 1848 Henry David Thoreau moved into his cabin on Walden pond because he “wished to live deliberately.” Thoreau may have expected his little experiment to serve as his own “declaration of independence”; however, Thoreau’s critics enjoy pointing out that he often walked the few miles into Concord to drop off his laundry with his mother and to dine with the Emersons. Thoreau was not as independent as he may have liked the reading public to think he was. Nor were the original American colonists who declared their independence from Great Britain. They would not have won their “independence” from the British Empire without the help of the French one.
In short, independence is a myth. No one is independent. . .even Robinson Crusoe had his man (aka, slave) Friday. The myth of independence (Emerson called it “self-reliance”), while useful as a guard against tyranny, has nonetheless peppered our history with the excesses of radical individualism and political separatism. The modern heirs of the myth of independence shout down their opponents at political rallies and town hall meetings, stunningly contemptuous of the inextricably interdependent nature of our social and political milieu.
Our nation long ago decided to celebrate our independence from our mother country on July 4th. Alas, over the years it has become unclear exactly what we are celebrating. I worry that we may be celebrating our nation’s conquests and dominance rather than our noblest ideals — political equality, social justice, opportunity and civic-responsibility. I propose we celebrate not our political independence, which may or may not serve our highest aspirations, but rather our interdependence and interconnectedness with each other and with our environment.
Jack Kornfield refers to July 4th as Interdependence Day. It’s a day to remember the ways that we rely on others and others rely on us. We are all part of each other, linked by bonds obvious and subtle. All the great religions teach this; scientists now acknowledge this, too. It is true politically, true ecologically, true spiritually.
Today, Interdependence Day, let’s celebrate the ligaments that join us as United Staters while also seeking to become more aware of the sinews, both practical and mystical, that connect us to the wider world and the entire cosmos.
We can start by sitting and meditating on the reality that there is no “You” without me or “Me” without you. Next, we can sing songs that glorify human cooperation and mutual commitment and pledge allegiance to Compassion and Justice. Finally, we can live out our faith in interdependence by actively seeking to connect to our unacknowledged neighbors near and far, doing something that practically benefits the poor, the sick, the young, the old, the lonely and the despised.
All need is my need; all lack is my lack. When I serve the good of others, I contribute to my own well-being.
All being is Interbeing.
Because All Men Are Brothers (starts at 1:20 mark)
and of course: This Land is Your Land