This I Believe

MaryGrace - Mechanicsville, Virginia
Entered on November 6, 2006

This I Believe

Why do we humans devote so much energy to opposition and separation? Why do we continue to splinter ourselves when nature and science demonstrate principles of connection?

I believe that this learned habit of divisive thinking is mankind’s worst behavior, a dangerous self-sabotage that endangers our personal well-being and the health of families, nations, and Earth itself.

Have you noticed how we chop life into segments – work time, play time, family time, spiritual time? As we compartmentalize, we turn days into bits, the sum of which is not greater than the parts. I have grown to see this as self-butchery, not efficiency, a process that renders me like so many chicken parts for sale in a grocery. Without a skeleton, I am limp and cold, reduced to separate functions, no longer body or soul, no longer connected to my flock.

Similarly, we humans perform mental and spiritual dissection every time that we simplify complex situations into either/or labels: liberal or conservative, white or black, heterosexual or homosexual, man or woman, French or American, Muslim or Christian, patriot or traitor. I question this learned practice, for we do have other choices – if we wish to recognize them.

Recently, I discussed the plight of humans in the larger world with my American literature class, as we were studying Emerson’s Nature and his reverence for the whole of creation. I asked my students how Emerson would respond to Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, which proved that all is energy, matter that cannot be created or destroyed, connecting all life at the quantum level. I asserted that the two men would surely shake hands, sharing a belief that we live on a field of vibration that links animals, plants, and inanimate matter in one plane of energy. Several science majors nodded, knowingly.

We next pondered the place of recent DNA studies showing humans of supposed different races to have descended from common ancestors – making us all a field of kin. I asked my students what would happen if we all agreed on these discoveries, if we reshaped our reality on unity rather than division. Would we continue go to war? Would we still ostracize those who are “different” as foreign, enemy, infidel? Or might we instead support each other, seeing all of creation as one family, as extensions of ourselves?

One student quickly countered, “Humans are animals with natural aggression. That’s why some members of families mistreat each other.” Several assented, saying a belief in connection is naïve. But another contended, “Maybe if we changed our mental view, we could love each other. We don’t know if we don’t try it.” Others said it would be “a worthy experiment.”

As my students departed for their separate lives, I felt some solace. Just discussing these concepts gives me hope. I believe that as we learn more about the universe, we can denounce polarities and live by the words of E. M. Forster: “Only connect.” This I believe.