Independence…and Interdependence

Today we celebrate our independence from Great Britain. Much has changed in the last 237 years, including many things that were unheard of and deemed impossible back then.

And one thing that seems to be changing now, with more momentum behind it, is the idea that life truly is a web, and we humans are but one strand. As naturalist John Muir is noted for saying, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”

Skunk cabbages and beaver dam at Bacon Ridge, Crownsville, Md.

Skunk cabbages and beaver dam at Bacon Ridge, Crownsville, Md.

It is always tempting to pick out things by themselves. After all, the enlightenment period that gave rise to the ideals held by our early statesmen was also a period of scientific ideals that held the best way to study the “stuff” that makes up life is by reducing them to their smallest parts and observing them in isolation. So, we have been educated and trained to see parts in isolation. But is that the best way?

Certainly, it’s given us much, both on micro and macro levels, from genetics to cosmology. But how long can we continue to live if we view life as a bunch of discrete parts?

This issue seems to be unique to humans and arose with our ability to speak, to form words, to put those words together. As one who loves words, I have my own challenges around “escaping” them to really feel into, well, feelings wherever I am, whenever—at the sink washing the breakfast pan or in the yard collecting meadowsweet to dry.

Berkshires take a siesta at P.A. Bowen Farmstead, Brandywine, Md.

Berkshires take a siesta at P.A. Bowen Farmstead, Brandywine, Md.

Our saving grace as humans may be our capacity to appreciate, to feel awe, to share and show our gratitude. We did not create what we see around us. We have used things that are here—the iron that forms the steel that makes up the saucepan, the berries bursting forth in this season that we savor and feel nourished by. What should be our proper relationship to these things? This is a question we each must answer for ourselves, individually and collectively, if we are to survive.

More words come up…these from Japanese natural farmer Masanobu Fukuoka’s The One-Straw Revolution: “Why is it impossible to know nature? That which is conceived to be nature is only the idea of nature arising in each person’s mind. The ones who see true nature are infants. They see without thinking, straight and clear. If even the names of plants are known, a mandarin orange tree of the citrus family, a pine of the pine family, nature is not seen in its true form.

“An object seen in isolation from the whole is not the real thing.”

So, perhaps Independence Day needs to evolve into a different kind of day, one when we continue to celebrate our independence, but one also where we seek ways to celebrate our interdependence.

Summer's bounty: Who does not feel awe toward these miracles?

Summer’s bounty: Who does not feel awe toward these miracles?

Celebrating this can be something simple: giving thanks for the pigs and the cows and the bison that make up the hot dogs and burgers we’ll be grilling, the lifeforce in the potatoes that go into the potato salad, the hops in the beer. Or it can be more involved: Taking a walk in nature. Standing with a tree, a tulip poplar or an oak, and emptying the mind of its constant chatter to feel what the tree says. And then abstaining from attaching words to those feelings.

Happy Fourth! Happy Interdependence Day!

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