Interdependence, from MLK Jr to today…

“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied together into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly…Before you finish eating breakfast in the morning, you’ve depended on more than half the world.

We aren’t going to have peace on Earth until we recognize the basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality.”


~ Martin Luther King, Jr


The quote above is one of the dearest for me in the pantheon of MLK Jr quotes.  So many of his words still reverberate with sharp wisdom and prophetic knowing.  But this one cuts to the heart of all of it.


A word not just at the core of Buddhist understanding of life, but of life itself.  Any close examination of life bears witness to it.  We are not who we are or where we are through any single doing of our own, but only through the generosity and service of so many who have contributed to the circumstances that find us who we are and where we are, some knowingly and some unknowingly.  And we too, each of us, play a vital part in others’ lives, sometimes knowingly and sometimes unknowingly.  Check out the film It’s A Wonderful Life to see a fictionalized version of this told for the holidays, or watch Back To The Future.

MLK Jr understood this, and understood this at the core of what brings us together – a mutual understanding that we NEED each other, that our every action influences and affects the lives of those around us sometime near and sometime far.  There is a ripple that plays out in ways we may never know.  Words matter.  Actions matter.  How we treat each other matters.

I’m a little late this week in writing a post about Martin Luther King, Jr, because I’ve been a bit stalled by illness.  But, the timing still seems right.  As we head toward the end of this week and the final day of President Barack Obama’s Presidency, the contrast between our current President and the President-Elect could not appear more stark to me in light of this quote.

Perhaps this is why I am most concerned.  While President Barack Obama is far from perfect and there will be criticism by some and debate about his Presidency, he has repeated time and again – even in the face of consistent and mean-spirited criticism – that he believes that deep down people are good and that with our work together, progress continues to move forward (sounding similar to another MLK Jr quote), often giving credit to the team around him for any successes that may have manifest.  By contrast, our President-Elect has built his campaign singling out individuals and groups with a level of public degradation, always surprising and at times alarming, all the while promoting himself as the only solution to America’s problems.

Life is interdependence.  No one does it alone.  Any honest examination, bears witness to this.  This isn’t opinion, it is fact and truth, even in a post-fact and post-truth “reality” celebrated and fueled by the President-Elect.  To not recognize interdependence is to not recognize life and this is the great danger to the success and livelihood of human society and perhaps life as we know it on earth.

As Martin Luther King, Jr states in the above quote, we aren’t going to have peace until we recognize this.

So, if this recognition doesn’t come from the top down, then we will live it from the bottom up.  We will stand, sit, march, sing, shout, write, and paint to bear witness to interdependence, to bear witness to life.

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