Dependence and Independence are concepts, ideas, hard to explain, and impossible to comprehend when looked at as opposites, or in isolation. These days important teachers remind us that we are interdependent – people with people, people with the earth, animals, plants, power, generosity, gratitude.
In our culture, we value independence .. consider our fight for Independence and that elegant document, the Declaration, which set up our identity as a whole, separate nation. On the other hand, we expect our children to depend on us, as they grow – slowly – into adulthood, learning along the way what they can do alone, and what they must do with others. However, we cannot put up a barn or run a school without interdependence.
I’ve heard all of the following remarks. How do they strike you?
*Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – do you know anyone who obtained these by herself? * Unalienable rights – what happens when your rights are stomped on by a hateful person or group? Can you be the Lone Ranger?
Depending on others is wrong. If you are poor, you must be lazy. If you are hungry, how did you let this happen? If you have no job, why have you not put away savings? If you are unwell get over it!
We accept certain requests as legitimate. Can we depend on your vote? Can I depend on your support? Can I depend on your making the roast for the next potluck?
On the other hand, we don’t know what to do with the following: Get back! I don’t need your help! I can do this myself! Why should I care about the poor, the homeless, the needy? No one ever helped us when we were down and out.
“The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.” So wrote Thomas Merton, the Catholic philosopher and spiritual genius of the 20th century. It’s worth a few moments of reflection…. compassion …. independence … dependence …. compassion…