There is a joke about a Zen master that said to a sandwich maker; “Make me one with everything”
When we look from the broadest possible perspective, everything in reality put together is a singular structure. From the smallest atom to the largest galaxy, each entity is part of a larger whole. Although we divide reality up into tiny slices in our mind and these sometimes arbitrary divisions can be useful, they can have a downside – they can obscure our view of how parts are connected to a greater whole. While it is advantageous to see a difference between “self” and “other” when it comes to many things, it can also be damaging depending on the context in which it is applied.
Imagine removing your heart from your chest in order to help it assert its “individuality”. We know the heart can only realize its value in the context of the community of organs in which it exists – each sharing something of nourishing value with all the other in the context of community. While this example is easy to see, we make the mistake of fragmenting ourselves on a civilization wide scale. We use both verbal and literal knives to hack apart our own body for the sake of establishing an “us” and a “them”. We see examples of this in families, business and government scales. We also see this between our species and the rest of the larger body of life in which we exist and on which we depend for life. When we fail to collectively establish the social structures that provide an environment to cultivate each “individual’s” full potential we wound and starve our own experience of life. In other words; when we treat each other as “us” and “them” without simultaneously recognizing our connectedness, we are actually reducing the capacity of our collective experience of life to rise to its full potential.
It is true that the lungs and the kidneys have different identities and functions, but at the same time they both have a unified purpose toward nourishing the larger body in which they exist. When we appropriately recognize ourselves as individuals within a greater whole we can then clearly see things that enrich our experience that would otherwise be in the shadows. For starters, it makes working toward and celebrating the success of “others” a valid and valuable pursuit that enriches our own life. This is the same as the organ doing something of nourishing value in the context of the body in which it exists. In fact; this is not only what our biology depends on for life, it is a three dimensional living breathing statement about who we are and what fulfills us. To rebel against this in any way diminishes our experience of life.
Imagine a world where we knew that cultivating nourishing relationships between us was not only the basis for life, but the only means of fulfillment because it is who we are. Imagine a world where we saw an individual or culture poisoned with destructive behavior as needing healing and nourishment for wounds and starvation and not needing retribution and punishment for crimes and misdemeanors. While we cannot get from where we are to where we could be without recognizing the reality that there are real wounds in our collective psyche, this doesn’t mean we can’t begin to move in the direction. We can look for opportunities within our individual spheres of influence to move in that direction and in so doing realize the satisfaction that comes from being more aligned with who and what we are meant to be – a unified whole.