Independence

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A solitary crane
In the winter
Needs no jewels.

A single crane standing unconcerned in the in the falling snow is the very image of independence. It needs no one, it is secure in its environment, and it is capable of going through life alone. Its independence stems from self-sufficiency.

It needs no clothing, no wealth, no status. It is content, even glorious in its naked identity. So too with ourselves: There is no need for dazzling clothes, an impressive career, an awesome temple, not a bejeweled master. What we want is something far beyond such externals.

What facets of your personality are encumbrances? What personal aspects prevent you from being independent? These are the areas that will define your self-cultivation, for you must strive to stand alone. This doesn’t mean that you won’t ever join with others, but you will do so as an individual who will cooperate just as much as is necessary. In this way, you will never be lost in a group, and you will never fear being alone.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

I have an almost instantaneous reaction to the word “Independence” – it is a mix of happiness, joy, and pride. I love being independent, not needing to rely on other people. At times I am almost counterdependent, going too far in my independence, and I have to remind myself that our lives are always interwoven with those of others, unless we truly choose to become the hermit in the hills.

But I am reminded that I have and need others in my life, that I am not now and never have been fully independent, and probably never really will be. I think I will always need people to love in my life and care about, and want others to love and care about me as well. So perhaps the Tao and i will have to disagree a bit about needing full independence, just as the cranes above recognize that they need each other and dance in joy to attract each other.

I look now at how far our country has leaned in its independence, and I know it is a false house of cards. If China and Japan choose to call in our debt to them, the house falls down. Soon we’ll see the effects of becoming an arrogant nation, thinking we are above needing others.

We all start dependent as children, and some of us grow to be independent of most others as adults. But there is a higher value even than independence – interdependence – being able to be relied on by others and to rely on them as well. That is the value I strive for in my own life – to be someone others can count on, and know others well enough to identify and rely on those I can count on. Only in interdependence can everyone achieve together what no one could achieve alone.

I would like to see America become that kind of country as well. Not one that stands alone, but one that stands with others, and works with others to make everyone’s world a better place to live – not just the wealthy and connected, but all people, of all countries. Isn’t that a more worthwhile goal? Isn’t that worth trying to create in America, instead of a rogue nation that walks by itself, and lets the poor and sick starve while the wealthy live high on the hog? I think so, anyway.

Let’s celebrate our independence, indeed, but make the long-term goal to be able to celebrate interdependence day, and invite all countries to celebrate with us. What a sight that would be!