In case you have read my recent blog post about compassion, you may have recognized that I focused the term on two cornerstones. Connectedness was one of them. I have defined compassion in a broad way, and I defined its scope to be “living beings”. It was the right thing to articulate at this time in July. But I have learned new things since then.
First, I have read the book “The World We Have” by Thich Nhat Hanh. He provides a Buddhist approach to peace and ecology, highly recommended to read. You don’t need to call yourself a Buddhist to read his book. Fascinating for me way simply the holistic approach that begins with challenging your own mind. And second, I was traveling to Devon, England, for a weekend to visit friends in their fabulous new home. Now, you will ask me how these two happenings could be connected to each other.
Traveling to Devon included a two hour train ride from London to Exeter. Enough time to work again with “The World We Have.” Books that inspire me so much deserve a second “reading round”, then with a text marker. I stumbled again and again about a passage in the book making the case that we should break through the notion of “living beings”. The idea is simple. It’s the idea that living beings are comprised of non-living-being elements. “When we look into ourselves, we see minerals and all other non-living beings elements. Why discriminate against what we call inanimate?”
Good question. Important question. Just as an example, our hair consists of inanimate elements and our bones are made from inanimate minerals. We are comprised of inanimate elements. And these minerals can be found elsewhere in nature, for instance, in the soil or stones. And to exist as living beings, we need a lot of these minerals on a daily basis. We take these minerals with our food that has grown on our soils. That means living beings are connected to inanimate elements. We need those elements such as minerals; they are part of our physical existence. Minerals are a part of all of us. Inanimate elements are a part of us. Welcome to connectedness. As Neill de Grasse Tyson said, we are connected to other beings biologically, to the Earth chemically and to the rest of the universe, atomically.
Arriving in Devon, I found myself in the middle of an absolutely breathtaking nature. The most fascinating element in Devon’s nature were the so-called “tors”. According to Wikipedia, a tor “is a large, free-standing rock outcrop that rises abruptly from the surrounding smooth and gentle slopes of a rounded hill summit or ridge crest.”
Imagine, just having this book in mind and thinking through these existential thoughts, then arriving in Devon and seeing these beautiful tors. It could only end in “oh wow. That’s what connectedness really means”. It was so obvious to me, without reading and reflecting anything else. Connectedness cannot be reduced to living beings only. It has to cover Mother Earth, and our universe, on three layers: biologically, chemically, and atomically. This is what I learned at a moment’s notice in a holistic way. The Native Americans would say, balanced learning happens if the mental, spiritual, physical, and emotional dimensions are involved. I have to admit, the universes orchestrated this sequence of events perfectly for me, to make this balanced learning happen.
Enjoying these tors, I simply had the feeling that these guys are living, somehow. I could feel lots of energy, courage, strength, and guidance. Each tor provided a different combination of energies. They also made me feel that they belong exactly where they are.
So, many dots on connectedness have been connected now. Let me close this blog post with wisdom from another ancient tribe, the Native Americans.
I was lucky enough that I was allowed to attend ancient Native American rituals such as a sweat lodge along my spiritual journey. That’s an experience that connects you on a very deep level to mother Earth and all her elements, living or not living. Through the course of a sweat lodge, when hot stones are brought into the lodge for each of the four rounds that are processed for each of the four directions, you feel them, you feel their tremendous energy. You learn that every stone has its purpose, that every stone has a story to tell, and that every stone has its place to exist. Atoms and stones are pure consciousness.
Thich Nhat Hanh continues in his book: “To protect living beings, we must protect the stones, the soil, and the oceans.”
Let me close this blog post with one of the Seven Native American Philosophies, put together in 1996:
“Our Mother Earth is the source of all life, whether it be the plants, the two-legged, four-legged, winged ones or human beings. The Mother Earth is the greatest teacher, if we listen, observe and respect her. When we live in harmony with the Mother Earth, she will recycle the things we consume and make them available to our children and to their children. As an Indian man, I must teach my children how to care for the Earth so it is there for the future generations. So from now on:
I realize the Earth is our mother. I will treat her with honor and respect.
I will honor the interconnectedness of all things and all forms of life. I will realize the Earth does not belong to us, but we belong to the Earth.
The natural law is the ultimate authority upon the lands and water. I will learn the knowledge and wisdom of the natural laws. I will pass this knowledge in to my children.
The mother Earth is a living entity that maintains life. I will speak out in a good way whenever I see someone abusing the Earth. Just as I would protect my own mother, so will I protect the Earth. I will ensure that the land, water, and air will be intact for my children and my children’s children – unborn.”