It has been a long time since I got excited by the idea of the Fourth of July or attached any significance to its meaning other than it being a generic holiday on which we got to see the fireworks. There are things I very much like about the fourth of July. I like BBQs. I like fireworks. I like holidays in general. But these things (except the quite vague association of fireworks in war I suppose) are not at all tied to the central idea of the the Fourth of July in American history. When I was a kid there was all manner of indoctrination in school relating to The Declaration of Independence and its meaning to us as a nation. We were told the stories of our supposedly heroic ancestors that bravely fought the British and established a new democracy (republic actually) based on enlightenment principles (in theory, if not always in practice). There was always a sense imparted to us (as it must have been imparted to the children of other nations) that we were special, chosen somehow to lead the world by our glorious example of decency and courage. As I have grown older, I have come to be very suspicious of nationalism and displays of so called patriotism. I have seen people use these to deny rights to the other, to divide rather than unite, to be tribal and clannish instead of global in our thinking. Perhaps it is because I have lived or traveled to so many places and seen so many distinct cultures, but what moves me is not the parochial, it is the universal. Emphasizing that which unites us in common humanity, and holding true to values that respect everyone’s rights, not just those of a privileged few. Modern life is all about finding balance between our individual selves and the independence we have or think we have vis-a-vis the family, the neighborhood, the city, the state, the nation, humanity, life and nature, the planet and ultimately our place in the universe. We are deeply connected to all of these, interdependent. All parts related to our giving and our taking. If our actions are clumsy in one sphere, the others will be affected. Sentience is such a rare gift, and sometimes it can seem like we are completely alone inside of it, but we must strive to reach beyond the confines of “in here” and get “out there” to connect with the rest of life. That is where the most beautiful fireworks really are.