One of the most significant insights that has come to us from our spiritual traditions, from indigenous peoples and now from the universe story- the story of evolution - as we are coming to understand it, is this notion that there is only one Earth community, there is only one sacred community and that is the community of life, and virtually everything that exists is part of this interconnected, interdependent, interrelated and living system.
As Chief Sealth so beautifully said more than 150 years ago, “This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the daughters and sons of the Earth. Man does not weave the web of life he is merely a strand in it. What he does to the web he does to himself. The Earth is precious to God and to harm the Earth is to heap contempt upon its creator. …We are part of the Earth and the Earth is part of us.”
We see this web of interconnectedness and interrelatedness everywhere when we look at the natural world, and if we want to unlock the meaning of life in our world, we must try to understand this interdependent and interconnected way in which all of reality is interlinked.
John Muir once wrote that “when you try to take out anything by itself, you find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”
We breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide; plants do the opposite.
Most often they “breathe in” carbon dioxide and give us oxygen.
The sun and the plants cooperate with each other through the process of photosynthesis to make the chlorophyll molecule that is the basis of life for other life forms.
Every bird, insect, fish, animal and plant is totally implicated in the cooperation and well being of each other’s existence.
When we eliminate any one layer or dimension of reality – or when we destroy any one life-form or life support system, say through global warming or pollution – then all the others are threatened, including the human community for humans are but one species among millions of species in this vast web of life.
Humans do not – humans cannot – exist apart from this total community of life because, even though everything is different, we are not separate.
We form a single, sacred, living and evolving community.
As Thomas Berry, the famous ecologian so eloquently said: “The human community and the Earth community together form a Single, Sacred Community, and we will go into the future together as a Single, Sacred Community or we will both perish in the desert.”
Chief Sealth was so right when he said so long ago: “This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the daughters and sons of the earth. Man does not weave the web of life he is merely a strand in it. What he does to the web he does to himself.” And Jesus, also speaking to this oneness and interconnectedness of all creation tells us to “Love our neighbor as our self.” Why? because our neighbor is our self – our larger self.
Mimi Maloney SNJM is a Sister of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary and a member of St. Michael’s Catholic Church. She is also a member of the Interfaith Works Earth Stewardship Committee and Earth Care Catholics. Perspective is coordinated by Interfaith Works in cooperation with The Olympian. The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by Interfaith Works or The Olympian.