Sunday, August 22, 2004

Interdependence by Scott Teitsworth

Interdependence Day Before starting any enterprise we must first become free of all ouroppressive dependencies. Independence is a necessary first step to healthyinterdependence, but it is not an end in itself. This preliminary stage iscelebrated in America on the Fourth of July, commemorating its Declarationof Independence from monarchy. But we have allowed the step to become asnare, substituted the means for the end. We have gone overboard aboutindependence, which when taken to an extreme can produce isolation andencourage dominance of those whom we are independent of. Our imaginedindependence from nature, including many parts of the human race, hasabetted aggressive policies sometimes even approaching genocide. Not justin America, but everywhere. It is therefore essential to distinguishbetween independence and interdependence. Who of us imagines that we can live without the assistance of others, andthat this extends far beyond our immediate circle of friends and relatives?A very small flight of imagination shows us how little we actually providefor ourselves and how vast a treasure trove is flowing toward us from alldirections. Goods and foods from every corner of the world are moving ourway, produced by people, transported by other people, and delivered to ourfeet by still other people. People who we will never meet are guarding oursecurity, planning for our future, and building and maintaining our cities.Air and nutrients are being processed invisibly by our cells without ourslightest thought. Plants are respiring oxygen so that we may continue tobreathe. Oceans are evaporating moisture so that rain and snow can providehumans, animals and plants with year round water supplies. The sun isbathing us in light and warming the planet to a comfortable temperature. Itis not even too hard to imagine that the animating principle of our bodiesis some form of blissful energy that is almost entirely unknown to us. Soour apparent independence comes at the tail end of a long series ofdependencies. All of us in fact are totally interdependent entities. There is a paradox here. The belief in independence encouragesselfishness, while awareness of interdependence is expansive. Selfishnesslooks like the pathway to wealth but it is actually the road to poverty. Ioften think of the Great Depression of the 1930s, which was a time ofbuilding schools, public buildings, roads and infrastructure, and compareit to the boom years of the 1990s, when schools and infrastructure fellinto ruins, roads degenerated and public buildings were given away as giftsto private corporations. Our interdependence needs to be acknowledged, but our mesmerization overindependence often elbows it out of the way. Independence has becomeanother form of dependence, a cliché which blocks our understanding. Justas Laura Ingalls Wilder's daughter carefully removed the many references togovernment assistance from the manuscript of The Little House on thePrairie series, we continually reenergize the myth of independence bydenying our interdependence. My wish for all you dear friends around theglobe is to always remember how much we need every bit of what there is,that by trying to keep it for ourselves we lose it, but by sharing we allgain immeasurably. Scott Teitsworth, 2004


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