When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” --John Muir
“The fundamental delusion of humanity is to suppose that I am here and you are out there.” --Yasutani Roshi
Everything in the universe is connected. Sages, poets, philosophers, theologians and, now, scientists understand the interconnection and interdependence of all living and non-living entities, of all phenomena.
But we don’t really need science or religion to tell us what many of us have experienced. Gazing into the heavens on a starry night atop a secluded mountain. Losing yourself in the eyes of another. Passionately pursuing a cherished endeavor. These are times in which we have the opportunity to let go of the claptrap of the mind and be fully present—no past, no future, just right here, right now. These are the times in which we feel a part of the cosmos surrounding us.
Late last winter just before dusk I was splitting some firewood in the woods behind our home. I was just finishing my task when one of our cats, Bandit, wandered up, brushed against my leg and wrapped his tail around it as he passed by. In that moment I experienced a deep connection with Bandit, with the trees around me, with the sunset on the horizon. For some interlude (15 minutes? 15 seconds?) my mind was silent and time stood still. I knew that all was well and all would be well. Bandit and I were doing exactly what we were supposed to be doing—being a cat and being a human respectively and connecting with one another and our surroundings at a level deeper than words can express.
In the March/April 2003 issue of Utne magazine, Philip Slater writes about a “gradual but massive collision between two competing cultural systems,” systems he calls the Culture of Division and the Culture of Connection. According to Slater, “The Culture of Division is based on boundaries and seeks to uphold and create them. The Culture of Connection seeks to dissolve them.”
“Connector culture is characterized by a preoccupation with linking—people, concepts, places,” Slater continues. “It seeks to recognize commonalities and promote democratic decision-making.” On the other hand, “Divider culture is marked by a preoccupation with control—over nature, over other people, over our own bodies and feelings. It’s relentlessly dualistic—splitting all of life into warring opposites. It fosters rankings and hierarchies. It exalts war and competition, and tends to see cooperation as weakness.”
George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden exemplify the Culture of Division, while Vaclav Havel and Bishop Desmond Tutu are characteristic of the Culture of Connection.
We’ve recently had some excellent examples of the contending cultures here in Asheville. Last Sunday, April 25, members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, picketed several of our churches. According to the Topeka church’s April 1 news release, their intent was to picket “the dog kennels/leper colonies masquerading as Asheville, NC churches,” apparently because of the visitors’ belief that “God Hates Fags and Fag-Enablers!” Benevolently ignoring these misguided members of the Culture of Division during their stopover here demonstrated the predominant culture of our fair city—connection.
When Congressman Dennis Kucinich addressed more than 500 ardent supporters at City/County Plaza in Asheville on April 3, among other topics, he spoke passionately of our disconnection from the natural world and called for a healing of that separation.
“It is the great work of our society and of each of us to come together with nature, to find a way to live in harmony with the natural world. People are waiting for leadership all over this world to come forward in the cause of peace, in the cause of international cooperation.”
I was privileged to spend some time with Congressman Kucinich after his speech, and I asked him what evidence he saw of this longing of the world’s peoples. “Look at December 31, 1999,” he responded. “People came together all around the world, so that at midnight it was a joyous celebration of humanity. It was a very powerful moment. . . . A year ago, millions of people coming together for peace around the world. It was unprecedented. . . . People want to come together. It’s a natural impulse.”
Despite knowing that he stands virtually no chance of winning the Democratic presidential nomination, the citizens of Buncombe County gave Dennis Kucinich a victory in the April 17 Democratic caucus, another clear signal of the yearning for leaders who speak from the heart, leaders whose intention is to bring us together, here in this community of connection.
Read the entire Philip Slater Utne magazine article (for a small fee) at www.utne.com/pub/2003_116/cover_story/10355-1.html
Read a speech by former Czech Republic president Vaclav Havel at www.worldtrans.org/whole/havelspeech.html
See a video clip of Dennis Kucinich’s Asheville speech (by local videographer Rebecca MacNiece) at www.kucinich.us/talksabout/environment-talksabout.php
Read 'The Great Work: Our Way Into the Future', a book by cultural historian Thomas Berry
Readers can contact Bruce Mulkey at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his website at www.brucemulkey.com
Copyrighted Bruce R. Mulkey