Which is the more American holiday–Thanksgiving or July 4th? I used to say July 4th. America is about independence. It is about the free spirit of adventure and progress that built our country.
My view hasn’t changed. Yet, my understanding of July 4th has. Today we do not only celebrate independence. We need also, if we are to be true to history and to the way life works, recognize our interdependence.
No matter how successful, how intelligent, or how powerful we are–we depend on others. Albert Einstein put it well when he said, “A hundred times a day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depend on the labors of others, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have been received and am receiving.”
We Depend on Others Every Day
Think of when we turn on the water faucet. To get that glass of water, we depend on plumbers, chemists, engineers, upon the manufacturers of pipes and spigots, and also on the people who build the reservoirs, water meters and generators.
One of the great achievements of the environmental movement is that it has helped make us more aware of the ethical and global implication of the work that goes into producing the food we eat, the coffee we drink and clothes we buy. We depend on others, and with that dependence comes a sense of responsibility.
Every Room Needs a Window
An obscure Jewish law teaches this truth. Any room in which people gather for prayer must have a window. We are not permitted to isolate ourselves from the world around us.
Technology today makes us ever more interconnected. Yet, it also gives us ways to escape into our own worlds. Perhaps it’s time to declare our spiritual independence. We do not need devices and distractions to entertain us all the time. We need hope. We need dignity. We need one another.