There are three things on my mind following the Independence Day holiday in the United States.
- The Freedom We Share.
- A Better Holiday We Could Celebrate.
- The Freedom We Don’t Share.
Let’s take them in order.
1 – The Freedom We Share
There’s a certain type of freedom that can never be taken from us, no matter what events take place in our lives. It’s the freedom to consciously CHOOSE how we show up and respond to any given life event.
Viktor Frankl might have the most powerful articulation of this wisdom:
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
If you aren’t familiar with Frankl, he’s best-known for authoring Man’s Search for Meaning. But what makes his story so remarkable is that Frankl is a holocaust survivor. And it was his time spent imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps that formed the basis for his powerful and influential teachings.
It gives me chills thinking about this man, imprisoned in such horrific conditions, connecting with the deepest wisdom that no matter what’s taken away from him externally, his inner-freedom is always accessible.
The same applies for us.
2 – A Better Holiday We Could Celebrate
I’d much rather celebrate Interdependence (and Interconnection) Day than Independence Day.
One of the myths of Western society is that we’re independent beings. It’s the ideal of the Self-Made Man.
You’ve probably heard the phrase “picking himself up by his own bootstraps” before. But…take a minute to think about what that actually means. What would happen if you try to pick yourself up by grabbing onto the straps of your boots?
Nothing would happen. You wouldn’t go anywhere!
Funny thing is, that phrase was originally meant to represent something that’s impossible to do. Yet it was repurposed to glorify this ideal of the Self-Made Man. That you can make it in life by doing it all yourself.
Don’t get me wrong here—I’m not trying to discount the importance of personal agency. (See #1 above ☝️)
But our role as change-agents of our own lives exists within the context a web of interconnectedness and interdependence.
Hence: Interdependence (and Interconnection) Day.
One of the biggest barriers to experiencing empathy, connection, and love with others is the idea that we’re fundamentally different than them. When we feel we aren’t connected to The Other and don’t have anything in common with them, it becomes easy to put them down, attack them, oppress them, etc.
But it absolutely blows my mind (!!) anytime I think about either of those. Even for a few moments.
So…let’s do that super-quickly.
First, this idea that we aren’t connected to other people. Have you ever thought about what needed to take place for you to be experiencing this moment? Reading this note?
- Well, first, there’s you and me, connected here.
- But we need the internet, and the thousands of people who are actively involved in maintaining it, so this message can cross hundreds or thousands of miles of physical space to reach you.
- I started writing this note in my notebook (which was designed, manufactured, transported, sold, and handled by so many people.) And then I finished it on my computer, which, (again!) had hundreds of people involved in its creation.
- And then there’s the software…I typed this up in Evernote. And then it went into WordPress for the blog. And then into ConvertKit to email it out to you.
- Oh, and all of the people involved in creating these things? Each of them has hundreds of ancestors who successfully survived and reproduced throughout hundreds of years to bring them into this world.
- And they’re each being kept alive through a system of food and water supply that spans thousands (or millions) of people.
I could go on.
At the end of the day, we need to recognize that we’re deeply connected with others. We are not isolated islands, off on our own. Our individualization is merely a unique expression of a larger, interconnected whole.
So that’s the first part.
And second, there’s the idea that we don’t have anything in common people who look different than us or come from different walks of life. But when we take a moment to look at that idea, like a mirage, it disappears the closer we get to it.
(And…again, as I watched it while writing this.)
As the narrator shares, it’s easy to put people in boxes. “There’s us, and there’s them.”
- High-earners + those just getting by
- Those we trust + those we try to avoid
- People from the countryside + those who’ve never seen a cow
And on and on…
But when we go beneath the surface of those boxes, we always find threads of connection that unite us.
- Those who are step-parents.
- Those who have been bullied.
- Those who are in love.
- Those who feel lonely.
- Those who love to dance.
The important things…the things that make us who we are on the inside…that’s what we share in common.
Interdependence. Interconnection. Those are realities deserving of their own holiday.
3 – The Freedom We Don’t Share
As a white man, it’s easy to celebrate the freedoms available to me. But whenever I do so, I need to acknowledge the flip side of the coin: that far too many people in our communities are fighting uphill battles to attain what others take for granted as basic, fundamental freedoms.
As a result of a lack of connection with #2 above, black communities, indigenous communities, and other communities of color have been repeatedly put in a box labeled “other,” and oppressed throughout history.
And by bringing clearer awareness to the injustice, inequity, and freedoms that aren’t shared across populations…we have a chance to use our freedom to choose (#1 above) to lean into the reality of our interconnectedness (#2 above) and recognize that a rising tide lifts all ships.
By taking leadership and acting towards a more virtuous, just, loving world, the entire system of humanity is nourished.
That’s what’s on my mind this Independence Day weekend.
I hope it helps you bring deeper levels of intention + love to your week as we co-create a better world, together.
Lots of love + high-fives,