I thought on this day of Independence I would evoke a conversation about what it all means. This is an excerpt from The American Soul by Jacob Needleman.
“The Declaration of Independence
‘When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds, which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station, to which the laws of nature and nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect for the Opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness (The Declaration of Independence).’
Again, we are searching for the philosophical assumptions of our form of democracy. Whenever we see the idea of rights, we must realize that something is also being said about the structure and makeup of the self. We are being told by Jefferson that we human beings have within us, as part of our intrinsic makeup, the capacity to intuit the good and the power to will the good. We are capable of guiding our own lives toward an authentic and purposive end. Such assumptions about the intrinsic capacities of human nature contradict the basic thrust of the Calvinistic Protestantism that played such a dominant role in the settling of the New England colonies. The Jeffersonian view of human nature is diametrically opposed to the Calvinistic doctrine of man’s essential corruption and incapacity, and accords great powers and capacities to the human soul. Since every right implies a power, to grant man so many rights can only be based on an exalted vision of human powers. And to say this is to come directly in front of the question of whether democracy is based on an accurate assessment of our actual capacities. We are confronted with the age-old but eternally challenging question of what man is as opposed to what he can become. What may have seemed questions of only external, political relevance – questions that one can safely think about without reference to deep metaphysical or psycho-spiritual issues – now draw us irrevocably into the heart of spiritual philosophy (pp.144-145).”
So here are my Polymind questions:
What is it to declare independence in your life?
Who and what are you declaring this to?
What are you becoming independent of?
What is the relationship of independence and interdependence?
What is it about rights, power and responsibility that comes with declaring this for yourself in your life and as a citizen of this country.
Happy 4th and eat a hot dog for me.