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November 23, 2017

Independence?

On the 4th of July holiday, I found myself reflecting on its meaning. So I Googled the holiday and discovered that the Second Continental Congress voted to declare independence from British rule two days earlier, on July 2nd. The Declaration of Independence, representing a formal statement of explanation, was approved on July 4th, and it is this day that we celebrate a national day of independence.

If you look up the definition of the word “independence,” you are likely to find something like this from synonym.com: “Freedom from control or influence of another or others.” Sorry, but now I have to laugh. (I have enough years on me to know better!)

Let’s try an experiment: Next time it rains, leave your umbrella behind and take with you a large, black plastic garbage bag. When’s it time to go out in the rain, put the bag on your head, tear out two holes for your eyes, and then go where you need to go. It works, at least to keep your hair dry. I know because I tried it.

Recently in a Panera Bread restaurant, I found myself without an umbrella as I needed to return to my car. So I did just that: I used a garbage bag as an umbrella. What reaction did I get? Can you guess? Several patrons laughed derisively while pointing their fingers at me, and subsequently my family became a tad bit mortified.

The point of this exercise is to highlight what you already know: Like it or not, we are all controlled by our environment. There are other factors, such as upbringing, but all in all, society largely determines what acceptable conduct is and isn’t. How, then, could we ever say we are independent, free from the control of another or others?

Ah, but what if you were at the top of the heap, so to speak, and therefore really could control others—through bribery, manipulation, influence peddling, whatever. Would you be free then? Think about it. Wouldn’t the desire to control others in and of itself be a taskmaster, in the same way that any desire of ours pressures for fulfillment? (I don’t think you have to be super rich to experience this, just a good egoist—or, at least to know one, and we all know at least one, right?)

There is a way to be truly free, but it’s not at all what you might guess or think. Kabbalah teaches us that it requires that we willingly give that control to another or others, relinquishing our own desires in favor of theirs. By doing this, we give no room for our own desires to enslave us by demanding fulfillment. Only then will we feel free from our personal ego, personal demands, and limitations.

The catch is that no one individual has the power to do this alone. The ego won’t allow it. But when we connect with others and practice doing this together, we awaken a special force that envelops us in a blanket of love. And from those feelings of warmth and love, we begin to feel that true freedom lies in connecting above our ego.

I was told that sharing a BBQ with friends is a good way to begin. I agree. Please, take your pick of the fixings, and have a happy 4th of July!

By Brenda Jones

  

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