Happy Summer! Happy July! Happy Independence Day!
It’s July. Time to bring out the Red, White and Blue and have picnics and enjoy fireworks with friends and family, right?
As Americans, we celebrate our independence from England. Years ago, in school, we learned that the 4th of July Holiday, also known as Independence Day, goes back as far as the American Revolution, falling on the anniversary of the day our forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence. This act in 1776 recognized the independence of the 13 American colonies from the British Empire.
Yet this act didn’t come without loss, and it didn’t come without reliance on many members of these individuals colonies. Could it be fair to say that independence begets some sense of dependence, and that this is what leads to interdependence? After all, does a forest thrive without the trees that die, decomposing and returning nutrients to the soil? Or the water in the air that collects in clouds and releases moisture onto the soil in which the trees grow?
In nature, we can see how this interdependence fosters survival. How about us as human beings? I began to think about this a week or so before undergoing surgery to repair a damaged shoulder and clean out my knee in early June. Realizing I may not be up and about in the way I was before surgery until after the 4th of July Holiday, I started wondering what would become of all I had created independently over the last several years?
The life of my very small business was forefront in my mind before surgery. Certainly, I also wondered how my family (those who had learned to depend on me over the years) would get along without the helping hand of “mother”… Yet, I trusted that all would work out.
The process has let me deeper onto a journey based on a sense of interdependence. I began by first considering my own independence. And also about how all that was about to change, and I would be very dependent on others, especially in the first few days after surgery. While I can only imagine that it is this way for others because I know that for me it’s hard to rely on others to do things I’m capable of doing, being independent is hard to change. “Why is this”, I wondered? “Where did this tendency come from”? And more importantly, “how does it serve me and/or others”?
I came from pioneering stock. My father’s family traveled west and homesteaded in the shadow of Long’s Peak. My mother’s family emigrated from Canada. For a few years, while I was growing up, I had a horse. That horse meant the world to me. Unconditionally, he seemed to offer me love and understanding whenever I needed it, even when it seemed that no else did. Together, we would go off on great adventures – after school, for hours on the weekends, and all through the summer. That horse represented freedom and offered me a sense of independence and wellbeing. All was right with the world whenever we were together.
Certainly, as I tell my children, with privilege comes responsibility. The privilege of owning a horse brought me joy. The responsibilities just seemed part of the territory… For the most part, I was the one who ordered the feed and fed him and the other horses we boarded twice a day every day. I also cleaned out the stalls as the food the horses ate came out the other end. I was the one who called the vet when my horse needed worming or vaccinations and I scheduled the farrier, too. I remember rising early on cold, winter mornings to carry buckets of hot water out to the melt the frozen water trough before leaving for school. My dad there to help me, of course. For me, it was a magical, memorable way to grow up. And it fostered a strong sense of independence in me.
I appreciated the choice my parents made to buy me that horse, and all the ways I learned to be strong, independent and responsible by caring for him, and certainly found it very hard to say goodbye to him when the time came for my parents to sell him. I don’t think I’ve been the same since. My parents bought me that horse to teach me responsibility and perhaps to give me a sense of independence. After he was gone, that independent streak remained. I knew no other way of being in the world.
Years later, I married. Then I had kids. I’ve raised them to be independent, just like me. Yet is that really the best way to be? Are there other options? Ones I wasn’t aware of as I did my best to care for my horse while I had him and make my way through the teenage years without him? Is it too late to help cultivate a sense of interdependence among my primary family members and to learn to value and seek out the support and nurturing that might result, I now wonder?
Knowing that it would be some time before I was ready to return to work, and also that I would become dependent on others to cook, clean, transport and generally care for me and my kids (and support my husband so he didn’t shoulder the entire burden) for several weeks, I gave thought to the experience of being dependent on someone. I also started ruminating on the concept of interdependence, too.
As I’ve considered these ideas, and the way in which these three qualities serve us in our roles as individuals as well as members of families, work teams and/or a larger community groups, I’ve realized that the ability to cultivate and support a sense of interdependence has more value for me now than being independent does. Does this come with a certain stage in life? Do some people come to this experience more easily than others? I’m curious about your thoughts on this…
It seems that only now am I really beginning to understand and appreciate the value of being interdependent – 0f having a role in and contributing to the wellbeing and harmony of a family, a workplace, a community. Thus, I am coming to believe that it’s not a strong sense of independence that really allows us to succeed. Rather the ability to get along, to reach out of our own bubble in support of one another and to grow together is what seems to foster harmony and wellbeing - in families, workplaces, schools, and larger communities too.
What are the take-aways, for me, of this kind of thinking? Well, I’ve come to realize that hiring a substitute teacher so my students could continue to take classes in my absence was a form of interdependence – supporting others in my absence. Trusting that students will continue to attend classes when I begin to teach again, that there will be people who want to participate regularly, is acknowledging the energy of interdependence. Their commitment to my offerings is what allows me to grow my offerings. I’ve come to see that it’s this sense of interdependence that allows us to take the energy of wellbeing and spread it out into our own communities, ultimately fostering a better world all the way around.
We each have a role in the functioning of the whole. Why not offer the best we’ve got, and begin to look for all the others who are doing that too? Instead of noticing what’s wrong with the world, can we turn it around and appreciate the good?
To me, I’m understanding more and more how, in the end it seems that what we put out there is just what comes back to us? I’m curious if you agree?
If you’ve liked what you’ve read today – or even if you haven't, maybe atleast it has you thinking more about it all…
Please… leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your ideas, even if they differ completely from mine.
It would be good to hear back from you! Thank you, and NAMASTE.
Interdependence: Part Two
From the dictionary:
Independent – self-governing, free from outside control, not depending on another’s authority.
Interdependence – to rely on each other for survival. The dependence of two or more people or things on each other for love, economic support and more. From the Latin word inter which means “among, between” and dependere which means “to hang from, be dependent on.” (vocabulary.com)
While an employer or your parents, a partner, friend or significant other may encourage you to handle tasks independently, they most likely also want to be able to rely on you to contribute to the overall goals and workings of the whole. While I sometimes work as an independent contractor, and am an independent business owner, I rely on the attendance and support of my students to thrive. Thus is the dance – there are steps when we are thinking about ourselves and acting from a place of “what’s best for me” and there are steps that serve to expand the circle a bit to include thoughts about what might benefit the greater good.
Perhaps there’s a time to take certain steps, to move in one direction. Then there are times when we would be wise to change up those steps a bit, reaching out and involving others which could happen by fostering a relationship, building your career, supporting your community or sending good wishes out to the whole wide world. After all, we really are all in this together. Why not do our part to make it good?
In a talk by the Dali Lama in Boulder recently, this revered spiritual leader encouraged us to move beyond war now, and to make the 21st century one that is filled with the energy of love vs. separation. While that can begin with the individual, it gets spread by the masses. Deepak Chopra, in a recent essay, suggested that political frontrunner Donald Trump represents “the shadow side” of our culture – the darkness that hides in the nooks and crannies of both society and the individual. Yes, as hard as it is to admit, there’s some unexplored negativity in just about every one of us, even though we may not be aware of it.
Until we uncover that, and confidently shine light in all the places where ignorance or darkness exists, people like Mr. Trump will surface, Chopra tells us. And I agree. How can we uncover greater amounts of love, offer love unconditionally, and invite love into every moment of every day – as individuals and as a society - if we are holding onto grudges, judging others or are unable to forgive those who trespass against us?
I’m doing my best to shine more light, and I’m learning to appreciate members of my family who, know it or not, challenge me to uncover even more of the hidden darkness that still lingers within me. The darkness casting shadows on some of my thoughts and acts. If we can begin to understand how everything around us is connected – by an energetic world wide web – we can more easily begin to take steps out from our small, individual selves, just as these spiritual leaders suggest. There is a way to shine more light around the planet, and together we can find it. Together we can do it!
It won’t happen if we continue to use or take more than we supply or create. Drawing down our natural resources and continually paving paradise is probably not the way to support long term physical, mental, emotional or spiritual health. Nor can we continue to support a monocrop corporate agricultural system, or any closed culture where even the most independent organisms can hardly survive. Instead, let’s start with a smile. Let’s look for the light in another’s eyes and say thank you to those whose gestures soften our day. Acknowledge the good that exists within one another while letting the good that exists within you more brightly shine too.
Yes, to me it seems that the move toward fostering a greater sense of interdependence among us as a whole begins with us as individuals. But it doesn’t happen alone, independently. It happens as we begin to understand the presence of and connect into that web - a energetic world wide web - that links us all together. This web is the support system for interdependence, which is a mutually beneficial sense of dependence. Each of us has a role to play, and it begins by polishing the windows of our heart, letting more light in so that more can shine out. Won’t you do your part today?
Share this article. Write back to me. Let me know your thoughts. Because YOU MATTER!