Every nation celebrates some form of independence day. It’s a day to celebrate freedom, and no one can argue against freedom.
But, do we really want to be independent?
In order to answer this question for ourselves, we need to look at what independence means. We think of independence as free; free to do our own thing, think for ourselves, and act for ourselves.
But, what about the part of independence that says we are not dependent on others, “not relying on another or others for aid or support.”
Here’s the question. How could we ever not be dependent on others?
The world is a compilation of many people, all offering their gifts and services that benefit everyone else. Sure, I am talking about all the good people of the world, which despite the news, are the majority of us.
My dad started me on this idea when he visited me in Venice, CA in the early 1970’s. I was claiming independence. He asked me where I got the food I was eating. Did I grow it myself? Did I produce the seed myself? Or didn’t I need to trace it back to the farmer, and all the people who brought it to me?
What about the couch I was sitting on. Perhaps I could make one but did I go to the forest, cut the tree, grow the cotton … well, you get the idea.
We are not independent in that way, and I think we need to stop pretending that we are. I stopped that day. I started thinking about community.
I loved my Venice community. It provided the perfect example of the art of dependence. The entire court that we lived on shared a washing machine and dryer that lived outside one of our homes. We watched each other’s kids. We taught little impromptu classes to each other.
I taught crafts and dance, and an English professor neighbor led a readers group.
We had monthly block parties. I was dependent on them. They were dependent on me.
Throughout the years, I have had to learn how to give up my idea that I can do everything myself. Not only that, I have had to admit I don’t want to do everything myself. The power of community cannot be replaced.
All our family gathered to celebrate my mom’s ninetieth birthday. It was an amazing experience to watch the family arrive at the party and take on a piece of putting it together. The part they most wanted to do.
Kids stood on tables and strung streamers and balloons. Adults prepared food. We were all dependent on each other. It could not have been done with just one person trying to make it work.
The party was a success because we came together, dependent and yet unique. And that’s what made it a day we will all remember.
We need each other. We need to bounce ideas off of each other. We need to watch over each other. My talents provide for others, and their talents provide for me.
Never in our world will we ever be able to say that we can withdraw from the welfare of our neighbor, whether that neighbor is next door, or across the ocean, or someday across the stars.
Yes, let’s celebrate independence from tyranny. Not just the tyranny of oppressive leadership, but the internal tyranny that makes us judges of first ourselves and then others.
That is true freedom.
And then let’s celebrate our dependence on the kindness of others, on the good heart of a friend, and for the ideas that others have that change our world for the better.
No one person or people is better than another. We are a community. We live on just one planet. We need each other.
For this, I am grateful. On this I am dependent.
May we think of freedom, not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right. Peter Marshall