From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Boston Tea Party: Independence or interbeing?

Independence directly implies independence from something or someone.  For example, the Fourth of July celebrates American independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. 

Wikipedia describes this as “the legal separation of the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain.”  But does “legal separation” contain within it the seeds of total independence, or has there been quite an ongoing connection between these two “separate” entities all the while?  For example, the Boston Tea Party is a well-known event that helped to precipitate the American Revolution.  But think about it:  Would colonists have been drinking so much tea in the first place if they hadn’t developed the habit back in
Not-So-Merry Old England?

The monopolistic British East India Company was integrally involved in the whole leafy (and leaky) mess. One of the ostensible objectives of the infamous Tea Act was to help this then-struggling company to survive.  Since tea plants generally grow in tropical and sub-tropical places (as opposed to London’s dank alleys,  which seemed far more conducive to fungus), most of this “English” tea was actually from China.  It would be nice to think that the Chinese peasants benefited greatly from their hard labor on behalf of this enterprise, but that would be blatantly false.  "Employee" assistance programs were just not in vogue at the time.

Were Boston Tea Partiers protesting the plight of Chinese workers as they threw the tea overboard?  Not for a Massachusetts minute!  They were instead protesting their own situations - which might have been far less traumatic than the ones being endured by overtaxed Chinese peasants.

In reality, there is no complete independence.  There is only “interbeing”– which traces tea beyond its coveted leaves and into its universal roots.  In his poem Please Call Me By My True Names, Thich Nhat Hanh offers these paradoxical insights:  I am the frog swimming happily in the clear water of a pond. And I am the grass-snake that silently feeds itself on the frog.  I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones, my legs as thin as bamboo sticks.  And I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

How so?  Just as that “British” tea was steeped in the blood, sweat and tears of those Chinese laborers – so,
too, are we all a product of everything and everyone that ever existed.  This realization that we “interare” can ultimately lead to compassion for those who at first seem so different.


Copyright July 3, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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