Why We Need an Interdependence Day

July 13, 2022

July 4th.

A celebration of freedoms.

Independence Day.

As I sat on my balcony, watching the fireworks over a bay dappled with boats and jet-skies, I felt the presence of my neighbors having BBQ’s, drinking, dancing and listening to music. I was surrounded by people in very close proximity to me, but by all manner of speaking, I was honoring the holiday alone.  

There was an invisible envelope both around me, and around them; a separateness that existed despite our shared humanity because we were strangers. However, the social construct that demands we distance ourselves from people we don’t know; this veil, which often times feels iron-clad in our society, is only paper-thin, (if it even exists at all). All it takes is a “hello” for the wall to disintegrate before your eyes, and suddenly connection is possible, and abounding.  

The fireworks streaked the sky above me, like a mad painter with a brush. I sipped my tea, thinking about how much I have always loved meeting new people; how strangers have fascinated me to my very core for as long as I can remember. The mug was like a warm hug against my fingers, as I brought it to my lips again. 

Many of the boats on the bay proudly flew the American flag, which rippled like waves in the summer air. With the concept of independence penetrating every aspect of my evening, I couldn’t get it off my mind. What did it mean, I wondered, to be truly free? What is the price of freedom, and should Independence really be our ultimate goal?

I am not speaking now of national sovereignty, but of something much deeper and much more personal. I am talking about the mental, emotional, spiritual and physical ramifications stemming from an absence of connection in our country, and its ties to the idea of independence.

With so much civil unrest these days, and tempers flying so high, people seem to be driven towards disconnection more than ever before. People now have access to millions of others online who share their views, and the opposition is nothing more than a faceless comment on a computer screen. However, before the advent of social media, it was not as easy for humans to find groups of people to claim solidarity within; people were forced to TALK to each other in person, face to face, when they were met with someone who opposed their view, which at least encouraged connection to occur. 

Today, in political parties or religious/non-religious camps, I question if connectedness truly exists even among these tribes, or if it isn’t just presenting as connectedness, while in reality being nothing more than an echo chamber of familiarity, (which is not at all the same thing). Naturally we gravitate towards people who reinforce our belief systems; we read books and watch documentaries which also do the same thing (while we should be doing the opposite, if we are as open-minded as we claim to be). But in so doing, we are only connecting to the part of ourselves that wants to feel secure, the part of us that wants to be reassured that we are right and correct. 

True connection cannot exist when we excommunicate each other for having a difference of opinion, when we ignore that other people with other ideas co-exist within our world. This is assimilation masking as belonging. Connection doesn’t occur when we hide our ignorance in the mirroring of someone else’s. Connection comes when we are challenged, when we dialogue, when we open our mind’s to the truth that we do not know very much with absolute certainty. The less we claim to know, the more wisdom rises up within us; creating space for us to hear the other person’s words, and see the making of their true hearts.  

However, even if we open our mind’s and hearts to the “opposition”, this alone is not enough to bring us true spiritual and emotional freedom. It is not enough to simply “hear the other side.” In order for each of us to become free, there must be a recognition that true human independence is an illusion. If we want to end our mental health crisis, and restore sanity to our nation, we must enter the madness at the heart of our nation’s soul and suck out the poison from its center: the madness of worshipping individualism. This is the first step towards healing.

In today’s modern, “every man for himself” society, it has become so easy to forget how badly we all need each other. Independence seems to have been elevated to a point of almost divine statute in our country – where the individual is worshipped and the community is secondary to it. There are of course, issues with countries that exist in opposite extremes, where the individual cannot express themselves or express personal agency for the sake of the community. Neither extreme is good. My point is, that the premonition that we don’t need each other or don’t belong to each other is a fallacy. Interdependence is where true connection exists. Interdependence is what makes true connection possible. 

Naturally, dependence, is equally worrying, and not what we should seek. Dependence is a master/slave type of relationship, where true connection is just as impossible and as it with independence. But interdependence is where true joy resides, and never did I learn this to be more true than when I got chronically sick.

Before I became ill, I lived as so many of us do: I prided myself in doing everything on my own. I felt invincible, until I didn’t, but I put on a strong face and presented myself as if I had it all together, while my health continued to worsen, because the pressure to do so in our country is just that overpowering. When I became too sick to care for myself, and truly vulnerable, and all the accomplishments of my life no longer mattered, my eyes were opened to the truth: that connection is medicine. So many times holding someone’s hand, or hearing someone’s voice, or getting a letter, or having someone pray with me, was the difference between giving up and holding on; not because it changed a single thing about my circumstances, but only because the very knowing that I belonged to them and they to me, made the suffering more bearable, and somehow gave it meaning.

The bereaved, the recently widowed, the neighbor who has lost a child, the friend with mental illness, the elderly person from church who spends every day alone, the co-worker with chronic illness – if we all stopped trying so hard to look like we had it all together, if we let ourselves show weakness – we would see, that suffering is the great equalizer; the great call to union, the coming home, the thing that should draw us together, not pull us apart.

I have wanted to give up so many times in my life when things were too dark to bear, and people were the reason that I didn’t. It is true that it is in relationship that we experience our wounding and trauma, but it is also in relationship that we experience true healing and restoration. The greatest lie our modern world has told is that any one person is strong enough to bear the hardships of this life alone. We were never meant to go it alone. We are not islands. We need each other. Suffering is not what kills a human being, it’s feeling alone that does it every time.

So never, ever, ever underestimate the power of a simple gesture; of reaching out, of letting someone know you care; of simply showing up and sitting with them in their suffering, without trying to fix it or solve it. There is profound intimacy in doing this – there is a connection beyond words in letting yourself merge into their experience; a communion of souls. In all our messy imperfection, we are each other’s true salvation. If we only stop striving for the illusion of perfection, and let ourselves sink down into the rawness of our tribal humanity, we will find all that we need to endure. It can never be overstated how something so small as showing up, can be the thing that makes all the difference. 

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As the fireworks conclude, smoke hangs in the air of thick, black night; the only evidence of the majesty that streaked the sky moments before. I watch the smoke thin out, until only the night remains, and suddenly it hits me: the pang of truth that’s been circling me all day.   

As much as it’s a beautiful thing to celebrate Independence Day every year, and our nation’s freedom with it, what our country truly needs is an Interdependence Day; a day where we come together. A day where we listen with open hearts to those who don’t agree with us. A day where we see the homeless, the addicted, the refugee, and the imprisoned as not a scourge apart from us, but a reflection of what needs to be healed in us. A day where we recognize a need to restore the principles of community, which our ancestors weaved into every stitching of the heart of this country at its founding. 

Let us love each other.

Let us come together.

Let us reclaim our belonging.

Let true freedom ring.