“Only the lonely, know the way I feel tonight.”
– Roy Orbison, Only the Lonely
Roy Orbison’s plaintiff love song is more than a love song; it’s not just about the loss of romance, it’s about the loss of connection with Love, capital “L.”
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Surely, one of the saddest failures of 21st Century life is the devastating loneliness so many humans feel, adrift in their lives and oblivious to the wonders of creation, resorting to prescription drugs to make it through their long night of existence. What a colossal waste! And how totally unnecessary, when we are literally swimming in Love (by whatever name you prefer).
Instead of learning about the billions of species we share this planet with and, in the process, coming to feel our belonging and interdependence — not just in a community of humans separate from but enduring of those “others,” but within the whole community of life — we made Face Book.
“Networks do great harm by appearing enough like real communities to create expectations that they can manage human social and psychological needs. The reality is that they cannot. Even associations as inherently harmless as bridge clubs, chess clubs, amateur acting groups, or groups of social activists will, if they maintain a pretense of whole friendship, ultimately produce that odd sensation familiar to all city dwellers of being lonely in the middle of a crowd. Which of us who frequently networks has not felt this sensation? Belonging to many networks does not add up to having a community, no matter how many you belong to or how often your telephone rings.” 1
In what community do humans truly belong? We can romanticize all we want but the reality exposes the puritanical roots of our self-imposed quarantine. Note how you react as you read this quote from researcher Lynn Margulis: “Not only are bacteria our ancestors, but also… as the evolutionary antecedent of the nervous system, they invented consciousness.”2
Well, there’s a lucky accident of spontaneous writing: cows are holy in India, and the phrase “sacred cow” has come to describe any belief that is held beyond questioning. What about our beliefs regarding life and consciousness? Can we, will we, stretch to imagine the possibility that what we just read might be true, that bacteria invented consciousness? It seems so utterly non-spiritual! As do bacteria themselves!
True enough, if our sacred cow is a concept of exclusion, that consciousness — whatever it is — is selective. On that basis, sure, how could one imagine bacteria playing a central role in anything but disease? Interestingly, it doesn’t take much research to learn that bacteria are everyonone’s ancestors and that they remain smarter than us today, regardless of the marvels we might point at in our dysfunctional civilization. We’ve built skyscrapers and computers and our tomatoes last longer because we’ve put rabbit genes in them, but researchers who study the microbial world report much greater complexity and intelligence hidden there… on unimaginable orders of magnitude. Bacteria too build cities, on the ocean floor, and they heat them with electric cables of their own making! Who knew?
What’s genuinely fascinating is the affection that the more open-hearted scientists come to feel for these invisible life forms. “As you look at these things, they become part of you. And you forget yourself. The main thing about it is you forget yourself.” 3
Stephen Harding at the Schumacher Institute in England put it this way: “As you experience this dynamic, ever shifting reality, you may suddenly find yourself in a state of meditation, a state where you lose your sense of separate identity, and become totally engrossed in the life process being contemplated. The contemplated and the contemplator become one. From this oneness there arises a deep appreciation of the reality of interdependence.” 4
Is this not the ultimate goal of all meditation, to experience transcendent oneness and come to know what this author calls interdependence as “normal?” That idea is not new. What is new is the idea of gaining that experience by growing out into this physical world — whether it be through an exploration of nature or by diving through a microscope. In fact, we are more than connected, because “connection” still implies separate parts somehow joined. We are one!
Our four part series has explored oneness from this unique perspective. Perhaps the best way to conclude is with this poetic invitation to remember and embrace the reality, not just in mind but in full heart, rendered by that miracle wordsmith Henry David Thoreau: “I am made to love the pond and the meadow, as the wind is made to ripple the water.”
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1. John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down — The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, page 53
2. Lynn Margulis and Dorian Sagan, Dazzle Gradually, page 37
3. Helen Keller, A Feeling for the Organism, page 117
4. Stephen Harding, From Gaia theory to deep ecology