Interconnectedness: The Fundamental Truth of Our Unity

Jun 05, 2021

Many people today feel like they are separate from the world they live in, separate from other living beings, and separate from the natural environment that sustains them. This feeling of separation can produce many miserable feelings such as loneliness, fear, anxiety, and so on, and it is at the root of society’s greatest challenges.

The idea of being a separate self, makes one feel as if they are alone in the world. This feeling of separation can easily influence one to do things only for personal gain, regardless of how their actions may effect others. It results in a lack of personal responsibility, leading to the attitude of “not my problem.” It is what allows people to develop excessive greed and make billions of dollars at the expense of others’ misfortune. It is what allows for such horrible atrocities as slavery, racism, assault, murder, and violence in many forms. Essentially, it is what allows one to be insensitive to others and uninterested in how they impact the web of life.

But are we actually separate like many people feel themselves to be?

The First Nations people did not think so. They saw all things as interconnected and interdependent. Chief Seattle, the Chief of the Duwamish tribe once said, “Man does not weave this web of life. He is merely a strand of it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

This statement, and others like “All things share the same breath - the beast, the tree, the man... the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports.” reflect an understanding of nature that doesn’t seem to be shared by our current society.

Buddhist practitioners also understand our connection to all things. The doctrine of Shunyata (Emptiness in English) points out that there is no such thing as a separate self, for the self is made up of all other things.

For example, when we look at a flower, we hold the notion that there is such a thing as a separate “flower.” However, looking deeper, we see that the “flower” can only exist because of the things we consider to be “not-flower.”

The “flower” only exists in relation to the soil that it grows in, the water that nourishes it, the sunlight that allows for photosynthesis, and so on. Without these elements, there could be no “flower.”

We are the same. We exist only in relation to the infinite web of life that contributes to our existence, a web that we too are constantly contributing to. As Chief Seattle reminds us “Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.” For our true self is this web of life. Our true body is the body of the cosmos.

To understand this intellectually is not very difficult. What we need to do is transform our basic paradigm so that we truly see the world in an interconnected way. To do this we have to question the way we see things now, reflect on the reality of interconnectedness and train ourselves to recognize this in everything that we perceive. Most importantly, we have to act in ways that honor this fundamental truth.

Imagine how different our world would be if every action was done with consideration for how it will affect life as a whole. To transform our basic way of relating to life in this way, we would transform our experience of life altogether.

If our society operated according to such a worldview, we would all strive to live in harmony, and to respect the many strands of this web of life that we all share (essentially all are).

As the Bantu people of Africa say Ubuntu, or “I am, because we are.

Nearly all traditional cultures understood our inherent connection to all things. This was likely because they were so immediately in touch with their resources. Living on the land, they knew how the seasons affected their food source, they understood that when the leaves began to change color, that the salmon were returning to spawn. They saw the web of life as a living reality and not as a concept.

Perhaps one of the greatest ways for us to remember our interconnection is to go outside and to spend some time in the forest, where we can see the interconnected reality of life in one of its greatest expressions.

Time spent in nature slowly begins to transform the way we think, feel and perceive. Little by little it opens us up to a new way of being, and teaches us about life’s essential unity. Of course, nature is not just some place to go and visit, it is who we are. We are nature. We just need to reawaken to this fact.

Time spent in environments undisturbed by humans gives us a deeper glimpse into our own true nature. The neatly organized cities and streets, with large buildings and skyscrapers, cubicles and offices, reflects our collective worldview of separation. Getting out of this artificial environment and enjoying time in the wilderness reveals to us a different way of being, a new way that we could be, one that is also quite ancient and sacred.

At this time, we desperately need people that have realized our inherent interconnection, and who allow this understanding to inform and inspire their actions. We must all do our best to act in ways that honor life as a whole, and since none of us are separate from the web of life, none of us are excluded from this great task that lies before us.

Each one of us has something to contribute to the Whole. How can you give back to the web of life?

One great way to give back to life is by taking good care of your own life. When you are at peace within, you can generate peace without. A great place to start is by learning how to meditate, and forming a daily meditation practice.


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