It seems only fitting, since my date this month lands directly on Independence Day, that I get to meander a little bit about the nature of independence. Like almost everyone, I love a parade and I love even more the local versions that will occur in the smallest towns and hamlets in Maine today, because of what they say to me about our independent natures.
Like most of us, I was raised with a set of values and prescriptions calculated to support my sense of personal independence: Stand on your own two feet, mind your own business, be true to yourself. All these message combined to give us the sense we could survive on our own, that we are individually strong, and these are important messages, especially for children.
But the fact is that we are bound to and held up by the efforts of many people and institutions: our schools, our churches, our friends, yes, even our governments. And in most cases, without that support, our individual strengths can waver in the wind.
I believe in balance in the world. Call it karma if you like, but the balance between our individual strengths and our community responsibilities is how we thrive. If we do not care for something outside our individual situations, we have nothing to balance against rampant self-interest. Many of us are struggling, philosophically and practically, against a shift in the prevailing ethic to a grotesque degree of self-interest.
Which was why I was so pleased by the outpouring of support in Portland for the asylum seekers who’ve recently come into our communities, seeking nothing more than the exact freedom and security our own ancestors sought when they came here. All of us, in that sense, are from away, and if we were to deny these people, we deny our own history.
So a Happy Independence Day to you, your families and to all the people who ever left their homes, voluntarily or not, looking for balance in their lives and independence, personal and communal. Blessings on your heads . .