“Love the world as your own self then you can truly care for all things”
Tao Te Ching
“…there is but one possible way in which human elements, innumerably diverse by nature, can love one another: it is by knowing themselves all to be centred on a single ‘super-centre’ common to all.”
Teilhard de Chardin
We have been inspired to write this article by several recent incidents in our lives and by two important concepts: “pay it forward” and “the butterfly effect.” It is not intended to be “goody goody” or “preachy,” but rather to suggest that the ideas expressed in it could be tried out in an experimental manner and the results observed.
Most of us have the instinct to help those in need who come to our attention, but in today’s busy and materialistic world, the time or effort required often prevent us from actualizing this instinct.
The other day, two of us, Radi and Mithu, came across an abandoned, ill, and emaciated dog in the market place near our home in India, so we stopped and offered him water and food. He took a few feeble sips of the water and a little bit of the food. While this was going on, a small group of people passing by gathered around to watch the proceedings. At first just curious (one sees so many starving and dying dogs in this country), it gradually became a “caring circle” with others offering to help feed and protect the dog. Eventually the dog was taken to a veterinary hospital, but for those few moments, a random group of individuals became a caring unit, and a suffering dog, otherwise invisible, became visible. One can only hope that some of the members of that small group will “see” and extend a helping hand to an animal or a human in dire need because of this experience. This is one example of several instances where a kind act done in a public place inspired others to do the same.
Radi remembers walking down a street in Toronto feeling vulnerable and frightened a few days after the 9/11 incident when feelings were running high against the “Other.” A man passing by noticed her expression and body language and called out “Hi” with a reassuring smile. He will never know how much that greeting meant, but it has been “paid forward” many times over when we have noticed a worried or sad face, as well as more generally. A smile in one’s direction, especially when unexpected and from a stranger, lights up one’s day.
Having experienced the sometimes inspiring effect a kind action can have on witnesses, we could perhaps link this to a fascinating theory, “the butterfly effect” attributed to Edward Norton Lorenz, a mathematician and meteorologist, and one of the first proponents of chaos theory. In this theory, “the butterfly effect” was used to suggest that the wing movements of a butterfly might have significant effects on wind strength and movements throughout the weather systems of the world, perhaps creating a tornado or altering its path. This is on a physical level. On the mental level, we all know the power of an idea when its time has come and since, as we firmly believe, life on this planet forms an interconnected web of vibrations and consciousness, human actions driven by ideas, good or bad, could cause a ripple effect across the entire web. So who knows what the consequences of a very small, kind action in a small corner of the world will be?
Peter Russell in his thought provoking book “The Awakening Earth” talks about humanity eventually evolving into the Earth’s “Global Brain” in which each of us is an individual nerve cell. The vast and varied communication network linking all parts of our global village is compared to the billions of tiny fibers linking the nerve cells in the brain. Russell goes on to say that for successfully functioning organisms – the human body is one such – the one quality they share is that the many components naturally function together in harmony with the whole. This characteristic is described by the word “synergy” from the Greek “syn-ergos,” which means to work together. When synergy levels drop and the organism as a whole does not receive the support of its many parts, it becomes ill, and when synergy is lost altogether, the organism dies.
We seem to be living at a time when, with healthy synergy levels, progressive integration of human minds could evolve into a single living system. But, conversely, low synergy levels, such as are being demonstrated in the world today, could lead to a breakdown of human society. The worst case scenario with synergy lost could be a descent into chaos and perhaps even extinction.
Dane Rudyar, in his seminal work, “Rhythm of Wholeness,” talks of the state of our present day humanity being in a phase of transition between two fundamental levels of Being – the biological level given human features through local and exclusivistic cultures, and the level of what he terms the “Pleroma.” Present day evolution features “being I” as a separate person with sovereign rights and an autonomous will with exclusive characteristics intent on its own individual development. By contrast, the “Pleroma,” towards which we are evolving, involves humans who have passed through the condition of individualized and separate selfhood, and operate as a planetary whole in which mental and spiritual integration provides conditions for the safe actualization of faculties and powers latent in our present day state.
Whether or not one subscribes to these and similar theories on humanity being one “under the skin” so to speak, it is becoming increasingly clear that a high level of synergy in human society as a whole will be needed to bring us back from the brink of human and planetary destruction on a large scale.
The concept of “paying it forward” as opposed to “paying it back” may be one of the simple methods that can be put into practice by anyone in order to help bridge the gap between “me” and “the other.” Not a new one, this concept was more recently rediscovered and brought to the attention of a large audience in a film based on the novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde called “Pay It Forward.” The concept is described as an obligation to help three other people in payment for a good deed one receives. Thus the need to help one another creates ripples that spread through society and may even create a social movement. We would add that if a good deed could be done to a stranger, perhaps of another nationality or religion, it would be a more potent way of bridging the divide between people by the empathy created for people of other cultures and societies. If we help even one person and ask them to “pay it forward,” or make invisible suffering visible by helping an animal or a human, we light a small candle that might light a hundred others in an ever darkening world.
Who knows what the consequences of a small act of kindness could be as it ripples across the web of life, and who knows what unexpected and unusual blessings it might bring into our lives. To conclude in the words of two wise men, Albert Einstein and Teilhard de Chardin:
“A human being is a part of the whole, called by us “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty.”
It is not a tête-a-tête or a corps-a-corps that we need; it is a heart-to-heart…If the synthesis of the Spirit is to be brought about in its entirety (and this is the only possible definition of progress), it can only be done, in the last resort, through the meeting, centre to centre, of human units, such as can only be realized in the universal, mutual love.”
Teilhard de Chardin
We would truly welcome comments and contributions from our readers on other ways of reaching out and bridging divides within and between our many different societies.