Everything that we do, everything that we have, all that we are bears the fingerprints of countless others from around the world who have brought us to this moment and sustain us in it.
We tend to overlook this truth. We prefer to think of ourselves as independent. We’re more comfortable keeping a distance from others, even others who love us. We’re afraid to make ourselves vulnerable and acknowledge our dependence upon the love and the lives of others.
Don’t we dread those times when we feel dependent, when we’re sick or struggling and need some sort of assistance? We’d rather do it ourselves. We prefer to feel like we’re living independently, even though that‘s never the case.
All we have to do is think about our day for a few minutes to be reminded how much we depend upon everyone else for pretty much everything.
We woke up this morning in a bed that someone else made. We showered in water that someone else delivered to our homes, which someone else also built. We dressed in clothes that are the work of others’ hands. We ate a meal that someone else grew, harvested, shipped, inspected and prepared. We got into our car or boarded a bus that others engineered, built, and tested for safety. We rode along roads that others designed and maintained …
And on and on. In every moment of every day, we are affected by the lives of so many others from around the planet. Others who live in different countries and follow different religions and different social norms.
Our interdependence goes beyond other humans. That breath we are taking right now is possible because of all the plants making oxygen in our world. Our food and our water are provided by the earth. And on and on.
Everyone is interconnected. Everything is interconnected. The creator made it so.
Recognizing that is at the heart of our religious traditions. For instance, the touchstone prayer of Christianity refers not to my father, but our father. It asks for our daily bread, not my own bread. It’s never about me, but about we — everyone working together, looking out for one another.
Compassion, love, forgiveness, kindness, creativity, healing — all of the divine qualities within us draw us deeper into our interdependence. Love requires connections with another. We experience life through one another. By embracing our interdependence, we embrace the one who wants us to be as one.
The more we try to imagine ourselves as independent of others — other people, other countries, other religions — the less we are able to love and to live together peacefully. We know from experience how self-interest subverts any society, any government, any religion. We stop thinking about the common good — about the we — and ignore our deep, divine need for each other.
The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us that “all life is interrelated.”
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” he wrote in his Letter From Birmingham Jail. “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
As we celebrate independence this week, perhaps we should be even more mindful of our great interdependence. And our innate need to love and care for one another.