Not long ago I asked the question, is Ferguson a tipping point, and if so, what kind? Well I’d say now, after the second grand jury exonerated an obviously violent policeman, that yes, Ferguson was/is a tipping point, towards universal empathic understanding. The “proof”? I CAN’T BREATHE, which is echoing throughout the world, and especially in U.S. cities.
Several days ago I read a piece that ignited a eureka moment within myself. Here is the piece:
Why are some cultures more individualistic than others?
Read it. You might have a similar response, especially if you study and practice permaculture which, I’d say while contemplating this essay, teaches us how to combine figure with ground, individualism with community, pattern with context. In other words, it doesn’t have to be either/or, either me first or all of us together. It’s both. It’s always been both. Nature doesn’t make either/or distinctions. We do.
Let us return to Nature by retraining our minds to think as Nature does: attuning to peripheral vision while simultaneously entertaining various patterns. No sense just coming up with one way of looking at anything. To do so is to freeze both context and pattern in place. No sense in just immersing ourselves in context — we used to call it “just going with the flow” — without also creating patterns, which we then, test, put into action, to see if they “work” or how they work, and whether or not the way they work is for the benefit of all beings. Meaning the whole context. Which of course is endless, infinite, and offers continuous surprises. There is no stopping here. No beginning and no end. Only flow. So here we are back again inside the immense rising and falling, the quantum field sparking here and there, depending on us, what we look at, focus, bring into manifestation.
Yes, both. Both “selfish” and “selfless.” Both “me” and “the universe.”
To fixate on either one or the other is to negate our creativity as a species.
One term that is drawing more and more attention, I think made popular by Thich Nhat Hnan, is “interbeing.” This beautiful word helps us immerse ourselves in the silent intermingling spaciousness that connects all and everything, inside and out. Yes, we are individuals, each of us on our own trajectories, with singular natures that are original and significant and need to unfold according to their own laws. And yes, we are interconnected, all of us individuals surrendered to the same endless sea of remembrance and forgetting. Our insides are felt everywhere on the outside. Outside penetrates to the very marrow of our bones. There is no inside/outside distinction, not really.
Back when I was a first year graduate student, the teacher asked if someone could give an example of something that we all participate in, without measure, and unconsciously. Immediately, my hand shot up. Air, breathing, I responded.
Which is why, the mantra, I CAN’T BREATHE, now shimmers across the surface of the oceanic interbeing, choking all of us equally. Each of us unique individuals now knows, each of us feels Eric Garner’s panicky terror, as he asphyxiated while being manually choked by a policeman. We are one in our horrified understanding. We have arrived.
Let us hold this moment, treasure it. For we have reached the seedbed of universal understanding. Beyond race, color, creed, or even class. No matter who we are, rich or poor, black or white, from the East or from the West, Muslim, Jewish, Christian or aboriginal, we all vividly imagine what it feels like not to be able to breathe.
When a baby is born, his or her lungs fill with air for the very first time. He or she is now separate from Mom, an individual, and yet immersed in, and flowing within this sweet medium of air that we all share equally, without reservation.
The freedom to breathe is the first sign of life, the first form of justice. Let us proceed from there to animate our interbeing.