Because we live in a society that prides itself on individualism, we can’t see that we are connected to each other. Our society blinds us by making everything a competition and a fight for one’s survival. Yet, just about everything is connected just as everyone is connected. Before realizing that everything is connected, we had to debunk what we believe is objective. We had to realize that everything in this world is meaningless because everything we feel, perceive, and think is subjective. The real truth is that not one thing or no one is separate.
From Dependence to Independence
From youth to adulthood, I believe the biggest goal for us is to prove our independence. As a child, we are dependent on our parents for just about everything from food to shelter. We are dependent on our teachers to learn. At some point, we take all of this into our own hands and we call ourselves adults. Hopefully, there comes a point in our maturation when we realize that we can’t do this life alone. Not because we need to be dependent on someone, but because everything from our inner thoughts, emotions, and perceptions is connected with the outer world.
I’m not an expert in quantum mechanics, but I’ll try to explain our connectedness from the point of view of science. We treat human beings as a special species, but when you go down to our biological makeup of atoms, our makeup is no more important than the makeup of the piece of paper you are reading this on. To prove this, we can go back to the big bang theory which suggests that everything from the beginning of creation was created by the same substance.
We can’t see the world on a subatomic level, but to see how we are all connected we have to look at the micro world to understand the macro. String theory states that the universe is made of tiny string particles and waves. In 1935, Albert Einstein and his colleagues discovered quantum entanglement which would lead to the EPR paradox. The EPR paradox states that events occurring to entangled objects are linked even when they cannot be communicated. In these experiments, researchers would entangle particles and then separate them. Even when separated at a distance, the particles would move to a matching state. Even though they were physically separate, they were still connected.
Mirror neurons are another way to scientifically show our connectedness. These neurons, located in the frontal lobe, include emotional mirror neurons, motor mirror neurons, and pain mirror neurons. These neurons could fire on our own accord. Mirror neurons would fire when we’re picking up an object. Some of these neurons will also fire when we observe someone else performing the same as we were acting ourselves. These neurons are important because they allow us to imitate another person’s actions. It’s also the place where we can develop empathy when looking at actions taking place toward another person. When someone is feeling pain, our pain mirror neurons allow us to feel empathy for the person experiencing the pain because we can feel the same pain as if it were happening to us.
Unity in Philosophy
The philosophy around oneness that’s caught my eye in recent years is the South African belief of human connectedness called ubuntu. The translation of the word ubuntu is, “I am because you are.” This is very different from the popular Western notion of Rene Descartes of “I think therefore I am.” It’s a way to establish independence, but we’ve already realized that our thoughts are not our thoughts. Ubuntu is a way of establishing that I only exist because you exist.
Working in marketing, the idea of competition is wild to me. Many companies don’t realize that they only exist because they have competition. Imagine starting a business with no competition. You might think that’s a good thing, but the reason why there’s no competition for the product is that no one wants it. It’s the same reason why we only sell products in certain places. Say you make video games and to establish yourself, you decide to sell the game at a grocery store. You’re the only game in the store. How many people do you think will buy the game? My guess is not too many. Only placing your game with other established games will make your game a viable option as well. If you start to think of it this way, there is no competition because you need the other players to establish yourself.
In practice, Ubuntu means that the bonds of the collective are more important than the differences and conflicts we cause at an individual level. It is very much like a family. Even though we fight and bicker, our bonds are the things that keep us together. You can compare it to the fingers on your hand. Each one is different in size and stature. Each digit may also play a different part if used separately. When we zoom out we do see that our fingers are connected and together they can do much more than what each digit can do alone. It’s all about creating a sense of community with the goals of the collective being prioritized.
Dependent on the Earth
Not only are we dependent on each other, but we are dependent on the earth. We know this from a spiritual and religious standpoint from every major belief system. “The advantage of the land is paramount; even a king is subject to the soil.” (Eccl. 5:8). We get our food from the fruits and vegetables that come from the ground. The vegetation nourishes the cattle, chickens, fish, and other animals that are eaten. It’s all connected. It would be foolish to say that we are separate from creation when we need it to survive.
I was thinking about this very thing when eating dinner last night. I didn’t have anything special, but a burger and fries. When I received it, I started to contemplate how this food got to my plate. The burger wouldn’t be there without the cow that sacrificed its body to provide nourishment for human beings. The burger also had cheese that also came from a female cow. Without her, the cheese wouldn’t be possible. The potato was grown from a seed that a farmer planted. Without the farmer, the seed, water, and soil, there would be no potato for the cook to then slice and fry. Without the animals, the earth, and the people who made the food, there would be no dinner.
Everyone Should Be an Environmentalist
The need for environmentalists isn’t designated to a group of people, but to all of us. Our actions have consequences, especially when it comes to the earth. When we have the mindset of independence, we will do anything we need to make sure that we are successful. That even means hurting others and other things to get there. Companies, and people alike, waste things without regard for the consequences as long as what they are doing is working in their favor.
By doing this, they believe that the life and death of one are separate from the life and death of another. Destruction only begets destruction even when we believe that one aspect of nature is more important than the other. I want to get into learning more about Native American customs because we know how they treat nature as sacred. All nature needs to be taken with care as it is connected to all.
Religious Call to Unity
There is a religious call to justice and respect for life that we seem to have forgotten. With the many different traditions, there comes a similarity of reverence for human life as we’ve all been created in the image of God. When we see through the lens of individualism, we see ourselves as separate from the homeless person on the corner. We don’t hold that person in the same regard as everyone else. Yet, Jesus was the one that said if you help the homeless then you are helping Me. It’s very hypocritical to see people who categorize themselves as Christian increasingly marginalized other communities from which they’ve separated themselves. The degradation of people increases suffering when we are called to relieve each other from suffering. It’s impossible to live the ideas of all of our major religions if we can’t see ourselves in the people we see every day.