Let me say, right up front, that I am not a party pooper. I love the Fourth of July as much as the next patriot, and I revel in destroying my hearing with loud fireworks and my cholesterol numbers with plenty of high-fat picnic fare. In fact, some of my fondest family memories entail carting our children to the local fireworks show and watching them twirl around with their own sparklers.
Even so, I am beginning to have some qualms about our national holiday. Partly, it’s the polarized mood of our country, where patriotism often devolves into a litmus test for partisan loyalty rather than fidelity to our diverse country as a whole.
But mostly, it’s that I believe less and less in the idea of independence, at all. What I mean is that I’m more and more interested in Pope Francis’ simple message for our global neighborhood: that everything is interconnected. This truth is revealed in the mystery of the Trinity, the elegance of ecosystems, and the tragedy of global pollution and climate change. It’s a truth we’ve encountered in quantum physics, astrophysics, sociology, medicine—you get the idea. I learned it in my early days of homesteading.
My ideal had been Daniel Boone-style rugged independence—being completely off-grid and self-sufficient. What I came to realize, however, the first (and second, and third) time my neighbors got me out of a jam, was that my ideal was not only silly and impossible, but not much fun. I like the term “rugged interdependence” instead: working hard and taking an active role in providing for your own needs but realizing that to survive and be fulfilled requires belonging generously to a larger whole.
Living out of the truth that we need each other will mean changing the way we do business, politics, education, and, yes, even religion. It will be hard work, so monumental as to be called the Great Work of our time. The reward, though, is not only that we avoid ecological destruction and human misery, but that we actually have a whole lot more fun—together. Maybe we could even have a new holiday to celebrate it.
Happy Interdependence Day!
A Global Community
1. If you want a mind-bending example of interconnection, look up “quantum entanglement,” “quantum non-locality,” or “spooky action at a distance.”
2. Remember and thank all the people whom you’ve never met but who make your life possible: those who provide your food, clothing, electricity, clean water, and consumer items.
3. Take a moment to reflect on the African word “Ubuntu,” often translated as “I am what I am because of who we all are.”