Living a life in sand is a challenge. This week at the beach, I observed dozens of ghost crabs scamper around my chair with their sideways shuffle while I was watching my kids playing in the ocean. Ghost crabs create burrows and tunnels in the sand that can be up to four feet deep, where they can retreat to avoid heat in the summer, stay warm in the winter, avoid predators, and live their lives on their own. They are omnivorous and scavenge food from the sand around their burrows. Having adapted to life in a hot, dry environment, ghost crabs have gills that allow them to retain moisture through contact with wet sand. The solitary life of the ghost crabs made me think of independence. Independence can be defined as not subject to control by others, not affiliated with a larger controlling unit, and not requiring or relying on something else.
We are celebrating our Independence Day this weekend. Last year, I wrote about freedom and our collective responsibility as a society to preserve our freedom for future generations. The self-reliance and resilience of the ghost crabs got me thinking about independence differently. There is a romantic notion of independence, with free will allowing each person to find their own path and meet their own destiny. Being on the river fly fishing gives a sense of freedom and independence in exploring and using your problem solving skills to control your success in fishing. However, all the knowledge I have gained and all the support I have gathered built my ability on the river. How independent am I?
This week my vacation did not finish as expected. My son developed appendicitis, and after some time in the emergency room, we had to make a trip to Johns Hopkins for emergency surgery. He was in severe pain, and we needed to act quickly. To complete the trip, I needed lots of help from my wife, other children, and my family. I was emotionally stressed and very tired trying to take care of my son. My wife and kids helped to pack up the things we needed to hit the road to make it to the hospital quickly.
Without my wife, my life would be a struggle. She helps me in every aspect of my life. I am dependent on her. In my work, there are many people I depend on. My neighbors have come to my aid, and many friends and family have supported me tremendously in my lifetime. There are many things I need help with in the day-to-day activities of life, but there are also the opportunities opened to me by the support of my family and community even before I was born. Our lives are our own, but they are also connected to all those around us and who came before us.
The Declaration of Independence sets forth ideals that our country aspired to and also listed our grievances against the King of England for abuse and lack of support. These words of Thomas Jefferson are often repeated as the most memorable portion of the Declaration:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, LIberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
While July 4th celebrates the birth of the United States and our freedom from a rule without representation, to me it also signifies our unification and support of each other toward common goals. That unification requires a dependence on one another, to build upon our lives for the benefit of future generations. For this Independence Day, I want to celebrate by appreciating the love and support from my family and recognizing that our freedom requires us to depend upon one another.
Happy Independence Day!