In “An Unbroken Sequence”, The Dalai Lama and Thubten Chodron write:
A stable, solid body is a mental image superimposed onto a stream of events in the same way that a spinning propeller is seen as a circle. The constant succession of discrete acts of cognition or feeling appears as a monolithic event, just as the rapid change of frames in a film appears as a smooth continuum.
And yet, we often pull ourselves apart to see ourselves as separate, as separate blades or leaves rather than recognizing we are one tree, one world.
My friend Pamela sent me a link to an article by Richard Powers.
I suggest you read it all, but here’s a taste.
“We’re now in the middle of a family emergency that will test all family ties. Only kin, and lots of it, from every corner of creation will help us much in the terrible years to come. We will need tales of forgiveness and surprise recollection, tales in which the humans and the nonhumans each hold half a locket. Only stories will help us to rejoin human to humility to humus, through their shared root. (The root that we’re looking for here is dhghem: Earth.)
Kinship is the recognition of shared fate and intersecting purposes. It is the discovery that the more I give to you, the more I have. Natural selection has launched all separate organisms on a single, vast experiment, and kinship glimpses the multitudes contained in every individual organism. It knows how everything that gives deepest purpose and meaning to any life is being made and nurtured by other creatures.
Can love, in its unaccountable weirdness, hope to overcome a culture of individualism built on denying all our millions of kinships and dependencies? That is our central drama now. It’s the future’s one inescapable story, and we are the characters who will steer that conflict to its denouement.
To find the stories that we need, we would do well to look to the kinship of trees. Trees signal one another through the air, sharing an immune system that can stretch across miles. They trade sugars and secondary metabolites underground, through fungal intermediaries, sustaining one another even across the species barrier. But maybe such communal existence shouldn’t be all that surprising. After all, everything in an ecosystem is in mutual give-and-take with everything else around it. For every act of competition out there, there are several acts of cooperation. In the Buddha’s words: A tree is a wondrous thing that shelters, feeds, and protects all living things. It even offers shade to the axe-men who destroy it. Incidentally, the same man once said: The self is a house on fire. Get out while you can.”
At Commonweal, a huge tree fell. It would have damaged, if not destroyed a residential building, but a palm tree caught it and saved the building. Luck, or kinship, awareness, and communication?