We know ourselves to be made from the earth.
We know this earth is made from our bodies.
For we see ourselves. And we are nature.
We are nature seeing nature. We are nature with
a concept of nature. Nature weeping.
Nature speaking of nature to nature.
– Susan Griffin
I am a child of God, an inheritor of a fragment of the
Mind that created worlds.
– Helen Keller
If we have not peace, it is because we have forgotten
that we belong to each other.
– Mother Teresa
My own reflections on the question: “Who Are We?” now come largely out of the context of the story of our Universe – our story – as it is coming to us from the new science. It is because of that story that I am feeling led to think and talk about what it means to be human in a new way that primarily involves the context of relationship, something we can all understand and relate to in our daily lives.
One overriding theme of today’s scientific story of the creation of our Universe is: “We are connected.” The story of the birth of our Universe in a singular event – the so-called Big Bang – some 13.7 billion years ago, of its unfolding through the eons of developing galaxies with their planetary systems, and finally of the emergence of Life itself on our Earth – reveals the powerful message: “It is All One.” This bears repeating. At all levels of our being, some of them yet undiscovered or not fully explored:
WE are connected;
We ARE connected;
We are CONNECTED.
In a profound way, this interconnectedness is what is really “real” about our existence. Interrelationship, therefore, is inherent and integral to our human experience. Knowing that at the very essence of our being we are connected has profound implications for how I answer all of the questions of meaning and purpose in my life.
It occurs to me that this might be why, viewing it from a Christian perspective, Jesus was moved to say that all the law and the words of the prophets found in the Hebrew Scripture (for Christians, The Old Testament) hang on the two commandments: “Love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself.” This wisdom is all about the truth of our existence: We are connected. We are all part of the wondrous mystery of creation. Every aspect of creation is a “neighbor” and deserves the same respect and reverence that I offer to myself, and, somehow, God also is in the midst of it all.
For me, another of the most subtle and profound implications of the new universe story is the realization that we humans are the product of a process of evolutionary development. That process, specifically for us humans here on Earth, has taken place over more than 4 million years – and is still ongoing. This is my next point concerning the question: “Who Are We?” One answer to the question is: “We are still becoming who we are.”
This awareness of “becoming who we are in process” means that instead of thinking of ourselves as somehow apart from Nature, which has been the dominant Western view for several centuries, we now understand that we in fact are Nature. We are as much a product of and embedded within the very processes of nature as the very Earth itself and all its aspects – its atmosphere, its oceans, its rocks, plants, and animals – in other words, the entire community of Life. So, if we want to know how to live, we need to look around us. For example, as I explain further in another post, seeing myself as part of the same process that resulted in flowers blooming, I now ask myself, how am I someone who blooms?
Furthermore, the ongoing process of the evolution of our Universe and our Earth is one into which we not only are deeply embedded, but also is the process out of which we have become what and who we are. We will become all that we can be through the same process.
More importantly, for each and every one of us, it will be through this evolutionary process that we, by maturing into our full personhood (or in failing to do so) can and will affect the rest of the process; for our Universe is one process.
One might say, then, that the meaning and purpose of our lives can be understood in part to simply be about making sure that we become all that we can be, right here, right now, in this particular moment in the history of our vast and expanding Universe. For, it now seems, the very future of every thing else depends on our achieving our own fulfillment in accord with all of the rest of Earth’s community of Life. Ah, yes, but the trick is – how does one do that? In recent years, I have come to believe that the phenomenon of human experience we call “spirituality” has a great deal to do with our accomplishing this well.
Every day, then, is an opportunity to influence the evolutionary process to which we belong in positive or negative ways. Aware of this, I now keep a line from one of Sting’s songs on my computer as a screensaver: “Send your love into the future.” Each day, I can find ways to make a difference in how our collective future will unfold, because no act is insignificant in an interconnected world. Madeleine L’Engle speaks of this in her reflections on the phenomenon of interconnection known as “the butterfly effect”:
In a recent article on astrophysics I came across the beautiful and imaginative concept known as the “butterfly effect.” If a butterfly winging over the fields around Crosswicks should be hurt, the effect would be felt in galaxies thousands of light years away. The interrelationship of all of Creation is sensitive in a way we are just beginning to understand. If a butterfly is hurt, we are hurt…No wonder Jesus could say that not one sparrow could fall to the ground without the Father’s knowledge.
From my view, the new story of our evolving Universe is not to be feared, but rather to be reflected upon with great seriousness in the attempt to better understand all others, our God, and ourselves. It is also through this story that we will know what is expected of us.
Knowing we live in – are intimately a part of – an evolutionary process in an unfolding Universe means recognizing that even the reality of who we are – our own individual consciousness – continues to develop, as we live and learn through reflection on our experiences. Reflection is the key. One more reason it seems to me, to go on asking questions.
Who and what are you most intimately interconnected with as you live each day? In what ways could you “send your love into the future” by how you affect those relationships today?