As America celebrates her 236th birthday on the anniversary of her independence from Great Britain, I find myself reflecting on the nature of independence and interdependence.
We may be an independent nation as a whole, but we are, all of us, interdependent on one another to ensure that the freedoms that we hold so dear are upheld. Through active civic engagement each of us influences the direction our nation takes. It doesn’t always feel that way, and for many, it feels as though the establishment holds all the power. It was this same feeling, this disenchantment with the powers that be, that led our forefathers to declare independence in the first place.
These days, rather than a declaration of independence, it seems to me that the citizens of the United States need to create a Declaration of Interdependence. Through the years, the focus on personal liberties has led to an environment in which it feels that each man or woman is only looking out for himself/herself. It is this attitude that has led to great economic inequities, the runaway salaries of Wall Street executives, and divisive partisan politics.
We need to remember what the founding fathers knew: together we stand, divided we fall.
The practice of compassion is one in which we are reminded of this truth. To proceed in the world with compassion is to realize that everything we think, say, and do has an effect in the world, and that we share commonality with every single person we encounter. When we begin to see people as reflections of our own Self, we treat them differently. This is hard to do. It is much easier to see everyone and everything as separate from ourselves. This, however, does not lead to freedom. True freedom comes from knowing who and what we are, and allowing our true inner nature to be reflected in all that we do.
Existing in the world in this way is Yoga. Seeking union rather than division. Seeking truth rather than ease. Using our liberty, not only for personal gain, but to explore our true nature and the true nature of all things. We are fortunate enough to live in a society that allows free expression and exploration. After all, what good is freedom of speech if what we say does not reflect our true inner nature? What good is the freedom to be who and what you are if you don’t know what and who that is?
So, as we celebrate our independence as a sovereign nation, free to govern itself by the will of its people, let us also celebrate our interdependence as citizens of this country. We have the opportunity, through compassion, to work together to build a society that reflects our values. And indeed, we need each other to do so.