I love the green gecko in the Geico advertisement who states in a British accent that some things are “better together.” The gecko is trying to sell insurance with a “bundling strategy”, ensuring that when different insurances, car or home, work together effectively and at cheaper rates, life is easier. The gecko with the big brown eyes is not just selling insurance. The gecko is onto something big. The profound spiritual idea of interconnections or interweaving of our lives together on this planet. By the way I am not endorsing Geico over any other company. I am a fan of the advertisement concept.
Different religious and spiritual traditions focus on interconnections or interbeing. In Christianity, The Trinity is described as the fellowship of God: The Father, The Son and The Holy Ghost. The disciples of Christ are seen as interwoven into a formal community (church) or informal community of believers. It is said that Jesus is married to the Church or community of believers. However, in Christianity, each person is granted free will, a sign of individual agency or selfhood to make his or choices.
Additionally, Buddhism focuses heavily on interbeing. Thich Nhat Hanh, peace activist, Buddhist scholar and writer , discusses the critical idea of interbeing in the book, “The Heart of Understanding”. Thich Nhat Hanh discusses the idea of “emptiness” or “interbeing” referring to things as “empty of separate, independent existence” because all things have to “inter-be”. The argument of emptiness is that a sheet of paper does not exist by itself and is “empty”. The sheet of paper is “empty” because it pervades in inter-being with sunshine, water and minerals and soil which nurtured the plant, from which the sheet of paper was made. So the sheet of paper is “empty” in terms of its own separate independent existence. It exists in relationship to other things.
The ancient African philosophy of Ubuntu states, “I am because we are”. The meaning in Ubuntu is that my dignity as a human being means that I honor your dignity as a fellow human being . The honoring of humanity between two people is a two way process. A powerful philosophy of interbeing. Honoring humanity in each other also aligns with honoring the sacred Divine Spark in each of us.
The concept of ubuntu was powerfully used in post apartheid South Africa to create safe spaces to discuss the common humanity among polarized racial groups in South Africa.
The pandemic adds further evidence to the interbeing principle. An invisible virus originating from one remote corner of the world traveled across the world and led to a shut down of the entire world. As much as we Americans value our individualism, the pandemic forces the idea of interbeing in front of our faces. This post is a reflection of the spiritual concept of inter-being and ubuntu, very important in building healthy communities, protecting the planet in decelerating climate change and eradicating the corona virus. The gecko is onto something big: “things work better together”. Healthy communities work better to build a healthy planet.
Interbeing in the Material World
The paradigm of Interbeing seems to be demonstrated in many different fields of study. In classical physics, Isaac Newton’s discovery of universal law of gravitation in celestial and earthly bodies describes the interconnection of matter based on exertion of gravitational forces that two bodies of matter exert on each other. Johannes Kepler described the laws of planetary motion. Kepler discussed that the planets orbit around the sun in elliptical orbits due to gravitational forces between the planets and the sun in the solar system. Quantum physics, a modern branch of physics, has a concept of entanglement which means that two related particles with separate identities in separate locations are impacted because as one particle is impacted, so is the other particle.
Just like the celestial bodies, on the micro-level, the human body is a system of interconnected biological systems. Environmental science teaches us that ecosystems have permeable boundaries and are interconnected. Family systems theory explores a person’s behavior as influenced by dynamics of family members. Grief and loss are such deeply hurtful experiences because we exist in interbeing with other people. Multicultural and community psychology also studies human behavior in broader socio-cultural contexts. Economists discuss the global economy and now companies have are focusing on developing products and marketing to a global audience.
The Global Village and the Pandemic
Million Belay and the The UK Youth Coalition Climate (2019) quotes Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s definition of ubuntu in the Ecologist article. Archbishop Desmond Tutu stated that ubuntu refers to “a person is a person through other persons.” This highlights the interconnected nature of human lives and that human beings live in communities and in relationships with others. This is so true. I am a result of so many people who have touched my life in such profound ways. Dr. Maya Angelou writes in her famous poem, “Still I Rise”:
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
She talks about the hard work, endurance and courage that her ancestors showed for her to be “the dream and the hope” of her ancestors in slavery. She talks about carrying these gifts with her. This is ubuntu.
Ubuntu and interbeing bring into awareness that our connections with each other and the past are profound. It is very relevant in the pandemic. For the global world village, it is not enough that one part of the world does better. All parts have to do better. Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of the World Health Organization made a recent statement that we are still not out of danger zone for COVID-19. He talked about importance of not just USA reporting lower rates of infection, but other parts of the world, now experiencing surges in COVID-19 also need to decrease infection rates. He discusses that humanity is in this pandemic together and we all need to get out together. One part alone cannot overcome the pandemic.
Interbeing is also seen in climate science. There appears to be consensus among different scientific organizations that science of climate change has accrued to a critical mass. The earth has a system of reflecting a portion of the heat into the atmosphere so that planet maintains a steady temperature to support life. The green house effect includes rising levels of gases, such as, carbon dioxide, methane, caused by human activities, such as, burning fossil fuels. The accumulation of these gases prevent some of the heat on the earth’s surface from being reflected into the atmosphere. As heat is trapped in the atmosphere, there is rise in global temperature. Again rising heat impacts rising ocean temperatures, retreating of glacier systems, and changes in biological and hydrological eco-systems. The change in water temperature, which is the basic molecule for life is a unnerving thought. Issues of climate change present an immense danger. For example, Climate Change and California report (2003) by California Energy Commission indicates the public health concerns due to climate change: extreme heat waves, increase in conditions for certain pathogens such as West Nile Virus and Hanta Virus.
The surge of youth passion and activism for climate health around the world is impressive is getting us adults to increase awareness of activities to maintain climate health. It is fascinating that these kids, unlike us adults, get that the planet is a definitive exhaustible resource. This bluntly means that once it is destroyed it is gone. Needless to say, it is in our best interest to keep the planet healthy.
Clearly, interconnections and honoring humanity in self and each other is critical in creating healthy communities. Regardless of diversity features, such as gender, political beliefs and affiliations, nationality, religious or spiritual beliefs, we are bound by humanity as residents of this planet . We need to work together as a planet in eradicating the COVID-19 and taking protective action to protect the planet.
I will end with a beautiful poem ERTH DAY 2019 by Jim Yerman. I love Jim Yerman’s analogy of how the bee procures the “sweetness” of the flower with no harm done to the flower. We need to do the same: enjoy, cultivate the planet, with no harm done but also take actions to protect the planet.
In conclusion, it seems the gecko is onto something big.