The Interconnectedness


This post was first published on January 30, 2013. I’ve had occasion to think a lot about these ideas in recent weeks, which prompted me to share this one again. 

We are at an interesting crossroads, having made the long march up from the scarcity of our hunter-gatherer days, up through the genius of agriculture and animal husbandry (and the miracle of settled human society they made possible; up through the game-changing Industrial Revolution which birthed to the middle class and brought a tenfold increase in wealth to the capitalist countries — though often at the expense of people and the planet. Now we’re in the grips of another great transformative moment in human history, which I call The Interconnectedness Revolution. It’s marked by our growing awareness of the interconnectedness of all life, and our growing recognition that every man is our brother and this planet is our home. It’s the culmination of man’s 11,000 year journey from scarcity to abundance, and a high-water mark in the evolution of the human race.

The Zen Master Bernie Glassman spoke poignantly about this idea of interconnectedness in a recent interview on Charlie Rose, where he appeared with the actor Jeff Bridges to promote their new book, The Dude and The Zen MasterThere, he asked that we imagine that our left hand, right hand and right leg are part of the same body but do not know it. He then asks us to imagine that this right leg is injured and that, instead of helping, the left hand and right hand say, “I’m not gonna help, it’s not my problem,” and, in the end, no one helps, and finally the body dies. For most of human history, we have been like the left hand and right hand that don’t know they belong to the same body as the leg. Now, we are waking up to the idea that everyone, and everything, on this planet is part of the same body, and that we’ll perish or continue as one.



The PR Battle For Equality



The battle for Marriage Equality is almost won. Later this year, The Supreme Court will decide a case that will settle the marriage equality issue for all 50 states. The question they will answer is whether The 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause requires marriage equality, as surely it does. For those of you who are not Constitutional nerds, The 14th Amendment provides, among other things, that “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws(emphasis mine).

The equal protection clause was one of the Reconstruction Amendments. Passed on July 9, 1868, it was meant to lay the legal foundation for full equality for African-Americans, including former slaves who, at the time of its passage, were just three years removed from the institution of slavery. It’s worth noting that prior to the passage of The 13th Amendment, even free blacks were at risk of being enslaved, as Steve McQueen’s luminescent film 12 Years A Slave so painfully illustrated. The 14th Amendment was meant to ensure that those newly freed slaves would be granted full equality under the law. It would take a century for the descendants of former slaves to gain full equality under the law (again, emphasis mine).

While The 14th Amendment was passed in the context of slavery and racial justice, it’s language, like most constitutional language, is broad. This is not an accident. The Founding Fathers, too many of whom were slaveholders, ensconced, in The Declaration of Independence and in The Constitution, language that spoke of aspirations that they themselves did not attain. The Declaration of Independence, for example, holds “these truths self-evident that all men are created equal.” All men. These are the words they chose though they themselves owed their wealth, or a portion of it, to slavery, though they themselves had households and plantations that were run on slave labor, on the blood and sweet and tears of people who were not compensated for their labor and who, furthermore, suffered untold indignities to their bodies and their spirits, including the indignity of brutal and premature death.

So too does The 14th Amendment use inclusive language. It provides for equal protection of the laws for all persons within the jurisdiction of any of the United States. And so when The Supreme Court extends marriage equality to all couples, regardless of sex, a move that this New Yorker article predicts will happen this June, it will be acting in a manner that is consistent with the framers original intent and with the intent of those who drafted and passed into law The 14th Amendment equal protection clause that will make it legally possible.


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Solange Knowles:
A True Original
On Her Wedding Day


Image by Rog Walker

By now you’ve almost certainly seen the pictures of Solange Knowles and her long-time boyfriend, now husband Alan Ferguson on their wedding day. Their wedding was the shot heard around the world. So stunningly authentic and original were these nuptials, from the everyday glorious juxtaposition of Solange’s fierce natural and Alan’s equally fierce beard, to Solange’s regal cape dress, to the eco boho swag of arriving to wherever they were going (reception perhaps?) on wedding white bikes, to the cavorting through the heady streets of New Orleans, where the living may not be easy, but it sure is good.


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Truthtelling & Spinoza’s God


I am in love with Meghan Daum’s essay from Sunday’s NYTimes, “I Nearly Died. So What?” It so perfectly captures my own irreverent feelings every time I hear one of what I’ve come to call “The Platitudes,” which perhaps I should put in ALL CAPS, so ubiquitous and “believe in them lest you commit blasphemy” have they become.

No, I do not think that a brush with death need wake us up to anything, and I definitely do not believe everything happens for a reason. I have too much life experience to believe that, not to mention the mincemeat the renowned statistician David J. Hand made of that in his book The Improbability Principle which, true confession, is waiting, as yet unread, in my must read asap queue. Still, I am 99.9% sure that Hand will win me over, predisposed as I already am to see logic where others might look for mystical magic. I am, it is worth noting, a highly spiritual person. I just don’t use the logic of spirituality — which belongs more to the nonphysical world than the physical one (in my opinion) — to run the practical aspects of my life.

I do, as it happens, let the mystical intrude upon my ordinary reality. As a writer, I know, for example, that when we step away from a problem, the answers come via a process that is nine kinds of mystical.


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Rumi Wisdom: You Are An Ocean

You Are The Ocean

I had a therapist once who, in an act of great kindness, told me, “You’re only little.” She meant me to know that the slings and arrows I’d suffered — and the fact that they’d drawn actual blood — did not make me a failure. I was not supposed to be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, or to transcend the ancestral wounds that had been handed down to me, my mother from her mother and back unto however many generations,  my father from the generations that came before him, and both of them carrying the psychic imprint, I imagine, of the African-American slaves and Native Americans from which we are descended. I was only little, so I could be forgiven if I sometimes found myself balled up in a fetal position on the floor, arms wrapped around my belly, as if I’d received some new punch to the gut. It was normal, she wanted me to know, to carry our wounds in our bodies, to not be able to single-handedly vanquish all suffering. It was something I needed to know, I who had imagined that I might save the world or at least my family, and who came to know the hard way that the only person I could ever save was myself.

The good news is that saving yourself is how you save the world.

I once heard someone say — I’ve long since forgotten who — that we give from our overflow, not from our lack. In other words, what you don’t have for yourself, you cannot hope to give to the world. And so, cast down your net where you are. Fish in the depths of your own ocean. And what you will discover there is that you are not a tiny drop in some vast ocean,  you are the entire ocean expressed in a single drop.

Deep Rumi wisdom, but when I read it I thought, “What in the world did it mean?”

Rumi, the great Sufi mystic was undoubtedly speaking in mystical terms. He wanted us to understand that we are not separate, tiny beings. He wanted us to know not that we were only little, but that we were vast and deep and extraordinary. He wanted us to know (and though Rumi was a mystic, these are also secular teachings) that we are more than we appear to me, more than we sometimes know. He wanted us to know that we come from vastness, and that we carry that vastness with us, in our beings, our bodies, our personalities as we move through the world. We have come then to do great things — on a big or small scale, it doesn’t matter. Some of us will play on the world stage and influence the collective narrative in big, splashy ways. Others of us will influence the people and communities that immediately surround us and, through the individual lives we touch, transform the larger human narrative as well.

Rumi wanted us to sense that doing the thing that we could do — and doing it like the badasses we are — wasn’t just a little thing. It was the only thing. 


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