Friday, June 29, 2012

Independence & Freedom

Thinking about independence and freedom as I prepare for the Fourth of July. I see the historical importance of this nation claiming its separation from the British governmental structures and priorities. Yet even that separation seems an illusion to me, as does the independence that is so highly touted today. In our country's politics there is much argument and vitriol over what people imagine to be their independence, a confusion of independence with the desire to be in control, and conflating freedom with a choice of actions.

When we put a plant in the ground we expect the roots to spread and open into the dirt seeking nutrients and moisture for its survival. The plant grows as a separate entity yet must have rain, sun, the balancing of night and day, and many other conditions in order to thrive. This is no surprise to anyone, and in this example it is easier to see that everything is co-arising. The plant's life relies upon the oceans and the evaporation that brings the rain, the wind that carries the clouds as well as the rivers that bring the water down stream, the particles in the soil absorbing the detritus of rotting tree limbs, the heat of the sun transforming the chlorophyll, the enzymes, weeds and bees, the whole connecting network of interlaced parts. We can see the plant as a separate piece and as part of the whole, but we know that it cannot exist as a separate form.

I think it is amazing that we so easily think that I am independent if I pay my own rent, put water in the tea kettle, put it on the stove and turn on the gas to boil it for my own tea or coffee; that my choices of which tea or what coffee beans represents freedom. The water from the faucet ties me to the rain, clouds and ocean, all the engineers and fabricators who put the pipes together(and their parents, teachers and friends), the workers and ancient cultures that figured out the filtration mechanisms and all of that. This line of thinking puts me inextricably in a web both ancient and immediate.

There is such confusion about freedom. In every moment there is a deep freedom, unaffected by conditions. It relies upon the view, the viewer, and awareness. This is not to be confused with an ability to willfully choose according to one's desires or having the possibility of controlling outcomes. Freedom in any moment (THIS moment) enables the experience of total interconnectedness, that awareness of co-arising, and escape from the dictates of conditional nature. We can drop the dualities - and shift the focus of our gaze to a much wider way of seeing, even with a very acute focus.

Even one moment of this freedom is liberating. The responsibility then follows to honor one's place in the scheme of things, offering the gifts we have, doing what we can to see the truth rather than what we want to see, and take actions that do less harm. It still feels good to handle one's own affairs - the rent, the tea selection etc. but it can actually be quite comforting to understand that we are, in fact, not independent, not separate. Even the pain of parting (divorce, immigration or death) is a little softer with this deeper view.

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