A couple of weeks ago, a couple of tango friends on Facebook were lamenting the cancellation of the fireworks to celebrate July 4th here in Austin this year. Actually, fireworks have been banned throughout the Texas Hill Country because of the extreme drought. Zero tolerance.
I commented something lame like "Let's use the funds that would have been spent on fireworks to build rainwater collection systems..." A noble thought, perhaps. I thought I was being creative to tie the cancellation of the fireworks due to drought back to the drought itself.
What I really wanted to say is this. "Wouldn't it be amazing if we could gather en masse, without the need for fireworks, and celebrate and honor and ponder and discuss the true meaning of the Independence Day. Not just way back in the good 'ol days - the meaning of the Declaration of Independence - not just that auspicious July 4th back in 1776. But the words themselves. The meaning behind the words. The intent. The vision. Take that and transport it forward to today and what does it mean now? Examine it. Feel it. Inhabit it."
Imagine a true celebration and honoring of a concept. A concept applicable to all of humanity through all time. "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." A celebration and honoring with families and friends and strangers talking about what it meant and what it means. No fireworks, no apple pie, no homemade ice cream, no BBQ, no American flag. Okay, maybe that's a stretch. That would be like celebrating Christmas by going to church and serving soup at the homeless shelter y nada mas. Perhaps. Maybe. Probably not. But it's the thought that counts, right? We Americans would never give up the pleasure centers, the purely hedonistic, the capitalistic aspects of a holiday - to reflect deeply and inwardly about the true meaning of a concept such as this.
We like to have fun. And that's okay. That's a good thing. Have fun and shoot off some fireworks. Celebrate. It's just a little bit sad that we all don't think a little more about what's behind it all. Like we've lost or maybe even willingly given up on all the stuff that's behind it.
So then this past week I've also been pondering The American Dream. I got an email from MoveOn.org about a "house meeting" in a couple of weeks, which I do plan to attend. Actually lots of house meetings across the country - to meet with like-minded folks and talk about Van Jones' "Rebuild The Dream" "American Dream Movement". As best I can tell, it's mostly about correcting income inequality and strengthening the middle class. It reminded me about my pretty much inactive and languishing cuz I never did anything with it Facebook Group called "The New American Dream". Which I created after reading a Vanity Fair article on the subject - I've posted about that before in here. But that's not what this post is about.
Anyway, so I go to NPR this past Sunday to check out the latest show at Krista Tippet's "On Being". It's titled "The Inward Work of Democracy" - an interview with philosopher Jacob Needleman, author of "The American Soul".
I'm started listening (and have yet to finish listening) and got to clicking around and came across his essay "Two Dreams of America", which is part of The Fetzer Institute's project, begun in 1999, called "Deepening the American Dream". You might recall The Fetzer Institute's "Charter for Compassion".
So, get to the point Alex...I find it interesting that a person can open their heart and mind, have a little tiny epiphany about something, ponder it for a few days, and then be led directly to it by happenstance.
I could go on an on about the essay, but I'm running out of time. Gotta go water the bamboo and catch the latest installment of True Blood. I'll leave it to you guys to dive in a read.
Perfect for some introspection on the subject of freedom and democracy on July 4th.
An absolutely perfect way to celebrate and honor this, and every, Independence Day.
Two Dreams of America | Essays on Deepening the American Dream | Jacob Needleman