One of my favorite holidays of the year is Independence Day, July 4. What could be better – a holiday where there is no agenda other than to honor history, cook something on a grill, and watch fireworks?
Lately, though, I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of independence. Like many Americans, from my earliest days, I have been soaking up the praise of independence, how it is strong, how it is noble, how it is the backbone of this country that I love so fiercely. As a child I got to hold up the star-spangled corner of the flag for our first grade assembly, and I was told that it was the prize for being the most independent kid in the class – a curious statement, though in this case clearly meant as a huge compliment. Years later, I found myself constantly insisting that “independent thought” is the most necessary component of any true investor’s makeup – more than intelligence, more than technical skill, even more than ethics or professionalism. Independence!
I still believe all of those glorious things about independence, and welcome the chance to celebrate it, as we did yesterday. But somehow a subtle yet powerful undercurrent crept in along with my reverence for independence over the years – if independence was good and strong and smart, then surely interdependence was less-good and less-strong and less-smart. Maybe even bad, and weak, and dumb. Acknowledging connection or (heaven forbid) need for support seemed to be in opposition to the values of independence that I held so dear.
My studies at divinity school, and more recently my explorations of biomimicry, have helped to illuminate the power of this unspoken undertow, and once exposed, it was easy to see the folly in it. Independence and interdependence are complements, not opposites! Many are way ahead of me in recognizing this, of course – from ancient philosophers to the founders of the United States to Whole Foods management (yes indeed, what an interesting dinner party that list would make!). Perhaps the most eloquent reflection on interdependence in recent years has been the declaration composed by David Suzuki and others for the Rio Summit in 1992.*
So here is the cross-current to my undertow of independence:
For all of the years I’ve been proclaiming “independent thought!” as rule #1, the companion to that notion has been right there all along. My rule #2 for great investing has always been the simple kindergarten maxim, “sharing is good”. If you are a brilliant investor (or thinker or artist or human being), but no one else knows it, the world cannot benefit from your brilliance. And everyone has brilliance. To quote Marianne Williamson, “your playing small does not serve the world… we are all meant to shine.” *
So there you have it – independence and interdependence, together at last.
We are the earth, through the plants and animals that nourish us.
We are the rains and the oceans that flow through our veins.
We are the breath of the forests of the land, and the plants of the sea.
We are human animals, related to all other life as descendants of the firstborn cell.
We share with these kin a common history, written in our genes.
We share a common present, filled with uncertainty.
And we share a common future, as yet untold.
We humans are but one of thirty million species weaving the thin layer of life enveloping the world.
The stability of communities of living things depends upon this diversity.
Linked in that web, we are interconnected — using, cleansing, sharing and replenishing the fundamental elements of life.
Our home, planet Earth, is finite; all life shares its resources and the energy from the sun, and therefore has limits to growth.
For the first time, we have touched those limits.
When we compromise the air, the water, the soil and the variety of life, we steal from the endless future to serve the fleeting present.
Humans have become so numerous and our tools so powerful that we have driven fellow creatures to extinction, dammed the great rivers, torn down ancient forests, poisoned the earth, rain and wind, and ripped holes in the sky.
Our science has brought pain as well as joy; our comfort is paid for by the suffering of millions.
We are learning from our mistakes, we are mourning our vanished kin, and we now build a new politics of hope.
We respect and uphold the absolute need for clean air, water and soil.
We see that economic activities that benefit the few while shrinking the inheritance of many are wrong.
And since environmental degradation erodes biological capital forever, full ecological and social cost must enter all equations of development.
We are one brief generation in the long march of time; the future is not ours to erase.
So where knowledge is limited, we will remember all those who will walk after us, and err on the side of caution.
All this that we know and believe must now become the foundation of the way we live.
At this turning point in our relationship with Earth, we work for an evolution:
from dominance to partnership;
from fragmentation to connection;
from insecurity, to interdependence.
Full quote from Marianne Williamson:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”