In a play by Anthony Clervoe, “The Living,” a character tells the story of how, during the plague, Cambridge closed and Isaac Newton lived on a quiet country estate, taking walks, thinking and pondering gravity.
“What Newton found: that the world would fly to pieces, but for a great force, a power in every single body in the world, which pulls it ceaselessly toward every other body, which is pulled ceaselessly toward it in turn. No matter what. We learned what holds the world together, in the plague.”
There are many man-made things that push us apart. Anger. Fear. Bitterness. Greed. To varying degrees by individual preference: economic status, gender, race, education, religion, politics. Our brain has a natural tendency to sort and categorize — identifying similarities and differences almost as easily as we breathe — and deciding how to react to those categories.
But we also all have the capacity for understanding the power in “every single body in the world that pulls us ceaselessly toward every other body.” There is always, underneath, an invisible current of connection that holds the world together — no matter what. There is nothing we can humanly do to extricate ourselves from each other. No matter how hard we try, or how little we feel we have in common, or how poorly we communicate, or how powerless we feel to create solutions — we are inextricably linked.
The Omnipresent Whole
One theory of the universe is this: there is an omnipresent whole. Everything that has become — air, liquid, solid, body, stars, plants — all that can be sensed as well as all that exists comes from this all-penetrating existence that is beyond ordinary perception.
The concept isn’t altogether different from the curriculum I was taught in Catholic grade school. A Supreme Being infusing life into all. Yet it is describing the Sanskrit word “Akasha” — the cyclic womb of all-pervasive matter from which everything has sprung — paired with “Prana” — the sum total of all the force in the universe, mental and physical.
An acceptable Western view of that connection for many of us is called “the ecosystem.” As John Muir said, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”
Wisconsin author Aldo Leopold explained it this way: “Time, to an atom locked in a rock, does not pass. The break came when a bur-oak root nosed down a crack and began prying and sucking. In the flash of a century the rock decayed, and X was pulled out and up into the world of living things. He helped build a flower, which became an acorn, which fattened a deer, which fed an Indian, all in a single year.”
Our ongoing story, in whatever culture, focuses on the cyclic nature of our connec- tion with the whole. Whether we believe our ashes rise, our ions transform, our force remains, our energy propels anew — we seem to generally agree that we spring from the same universal source.
Election cycles can do a lot to obscure that general agreement.
The stage no. 4 understanding I’ve been writing about in the Attainable We book and website I’m developing is this: “We have become a society focused on ‘who knows best’ without reminding ourselves, every day, simply how much we need each other in order to survive.”
Strength comes in community
I remember having a sick pit in the center of my chest after 9/11, in despair about how I could raise my two-year-old girl, happily dancing in our living room as ambulances whizzed by to Hospital Row, in a world that felt so full of hate and pain and sorrow. But NYC in 2001 is also where I felt some of the greatest synchronicity of spirit, coming together to honor the fallen with tokens and letters and flowers, offering supplies to the emergency workers in the field.
I think of author Kalia Yang, who I talked with recently. She spent the first six years of her life living in a Hmong refugee camp and now tells beautiful stories that lift others up in shared pain and loss and connection. Her father taught her the power of story to transform.
Despite being ostracized in the U.S. after he refused to testify during the McCarthy era, quantum physicist David Bohm believed that humans were capable of getting past themselves to co-create a greater future. As he put it: “Creation arises as much in the flow of ideas between people as in the understanding of the individual alone.”
For me, there is no savior that provides magical solutions but community with others who believe in compassion and heart.
Our interconnection is not ours to control, only to accept, as we put our heads together and share stories that might change attitudes, one person at a time.
Mikki Morrissette is creating AttainableWe.com to explore how new science and new storytelling can reduce the man-made fragmentation of the whole.