Today’s post is by Bryan Berghoef
Independence. It is a wonderful thing to be free of that which holds you back, presses you down, or even oppresses you. We are heading into a weekend in the U.S. in which parades, flags, fireworks and barbecues will all signal a corporate celebration of being free, of independence. A wonderful thing.
Yet in the wake of the recent vote for independence in Britain, the famous Brexit, we realize that there are limits to how good independence can be. We remember that underneath it all, there is a very real and essential interdependence. Human beings were not made to exist in isolation. Even collections of human beings are not really able to live in true independence. There is always an impact from the other, a necessary global interconnection, in which trade from one nation helps another, travel in and through a region impacts a local economy, or in which pollution or carbon usage affects the global whole.
On a personal level, my wife and I recently built a patio with a pergola for enjoying quiet evenings in the backyard. We laid the patio pavers (seriously heavy!), we set beams in each corner for the roof, we put in some lattice for climbing plants to grow, we cut bamboo from the woods out back and laid them on top for the roof. You have to understand that we are not the most skilled when it comes to home improvement projects or anything of the sort. So at the end we said: “I can’t believe we did this! All by ourselves.”
But of course, on further reflection, we had lots of help. Workers poured the cement into casts which became our patio pavers. Truckers brought them to the home improvement store. Someone there helped me load them into the van. Workers at a lumber mill sawed the wood that became the post beams and the overhead two by fours. My father-in-law planted the bamboo that we harvested, and he also helped place the four roof beams with supports. So yes, “we did this!” But the we turns out to be a much larger circle.
In the spiritual life this is no less true. We each have our own journey of faith—yet this journey is always in connection with, and reliant upon, the wisdom, gifts and insights of others. The core of the spiritual life celebrates connection and interdependence—we seek deepening relationship with the divine heart at the center of all of life, we seek to live in harmony with the human community, we may choose to belong to a church or other community of faith seekers, and we read the works of spiritual masters and benefit from their wisdom. Mahatma Gandhi put it this way: “Interdependence is and ought to be as much the ideal of humanity as self-sufficiency. Man is a social being.”
Independence has its place, to be sure. But perhaps what needs remembering and cultivating, what really ought to be celebrated each and every day—is our deep and sacred interdependence—with one another, with the Earth, and with all living things.