An Introduction to Interconnectedness

“When I look up in the universe, I know I’m small, but I’m also big. I’m big because I’m connected to the Universe and the Universe is connected to me.” -Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower / Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand / And Eternity in an hour.” -William Blake, English poet and artist.

 “We really all are made of star stuff,” implying all life on Earth is interconnected-The famous cosmologist Carl Sagan 

“Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam “is a Sanskrit phrase that comes from ancient Indian scriptures called the Maha Upanishads.This concept is over 3000 years old. The literal translation of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” is “The world is one family.” It emphasizes the underlying unity of all humanity, irrespective of differences in nationality, religion, culture, or race. The concept recognizes that despite our diverse backgrounds and individual identities, we all share a common origin and interconnectedness on this planet.

The phrase promotes the values of tolerance, respect, and acceptance, encouraging people to transcend narrow boundaries and embrace a broader sense of kinship with all living beings.It encapsulates the idea of a world without borders, where compassion, understanding, and cooperation can lead to a more inclusive and peaceful society.

Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, which translates to “One Earth, One Family, One Future,” is the theme of India’s G20 presidency

This interconnectedness can be observed at different scales, from the smallest ecological interactions to the entire biosphere. We at UEF believe being aware of our Interconnectedness is deeply significant to Flourishing. However, the idea that everything is interconnected is contrary to our daily experiences. It defies the world view that we have grown to believe that we are separate from everyone and everything

Author Frederic Laloux very elegantly expresses the issue of separateness: “With every unsettling event we are tempted to seek refuge in separation. Our soul goes into hiding and the ego takes over, doing what it feels it needs to do to make us feel safe. This is  a safety that comes at a cost. We now relate to others and ourselves with fear and judgment, no longer with love and acceptance. 

This false sense of separateness leads to selfishness, greed and anomie at the individual level and tribalism, nationalism, and xenophobia at the social level. Not surprisingly, anthropologist Gregory Bateson believed that the first thing children should learn was how the various life systems are interconnected: “What is the relationship between the food we eat, the garbage we produce, and the survival of fish in the sea?”In many wisdom traditions, the highest purpose in life is overcoming separation.” 

From a philosophical and spiritual perspective, interconnectedness often implies a holistic worldview that sees all things as part of a greater whole.  It suggests that the boundaries we perceive between things, whether physical, emotional, or conceptual, are artificial and that we are all interconnected at a fundamental level.  This belief can lead to a sense of  interdependence, compassion, and respect for the natural world, as well as a recognition of the impact our actions can have on others and the environment.

Several notable thought leaders have expanded on Interconnectedness, offering unique perspectives: 

“All things originate from one another and vanish into one another, according to necessity, under the dominion of time.” – Anaximander

“The beauty of knowing that the Earth is a closed system is to understand — without hubris — that we are all part of the same phenomenon, Life. We are all the same: We hope good things happen to us. We care for the people that love us. We are immersed in the communities that surround us. And we exist due to the biophysical interplay of nature…Embracing interdependence as the central organizing principle is to dissolve that boundary between ourselves and “the other” and to expand the circle of community so that there is no “other” left; there is only us made whole.” – Dekila-Chungyalpa, winner of  the prestigious Yale McCluskey Award, 2014

“Who sees all beings in his own Self, and his own Self in all beings, loses all fear. . . . When a sage sees this great Unity and his Self has become all beings, what delusion and what sorrow can ever be near him?“ – Hindu Upanishads

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. […] Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.” – John Donne

“To thinkers such as Gomaa, therefore, extending compassion and love for all human beings and the whole of God’s creation is a way of loving and knowing God. Support for this principle appears in the many Qur’anic verses that stress that all humans originate from a single universal source and are thus inextricably connected. Diversities of language, religion, or race, according to the Muslim scripture, are to be respected as signs of divine genius and

opportunities for mutual understanding, tolerance, and compassion between nations and communities.” – Prof Ali Asani, Harvard University

“ In contrast to the dualistic framework of meaning that has structured two and half millennia of Western thought, the systems way of thinking – integrated with the insights of traditional wisdom – leads to the possibility of finding meaning ultimately through connectedness within ourselves, to each other, and to the natural world.This way of thinking, seeing the cosmos as a web of meaning, has the potential to offer a robust framework for the Great Transformation values emphasizing the quality of life, our shared humanity and the flourishing of nature.” – Jeremy Lent, Author

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” – Martin Luther King

“Make your interests gradually wider and more impersonal, until bit by bit the walls of the ego recede, and your life becomes increasingly merged in the universal life. An individual human existence should be like a river — small at first, narrowly contained within its banks, and rushing passionately past rocks and over waterfalls. Gradually the river grows wider, the banks recede, the waters flow more quietly, and in the end, without any visible break, they become merged in the sea, and painlessly lose their individual being.”—Bertrand Russell, philosopher

From a scientific standpoint, the concept of interconnectedness finds support in fields such as systems theory, ecology, and quantum physics.  Systems theory studies how elements within a system are interconnected and influence each other, while ecology examines the intricate web of relationships and dependencies among species and ecosystems.  Quantum physics also suggests that at the most fundamental level, all matter and energy are interconnected through fields and waves, and the observer is an inseparable part of the observed system.  The recent announcement from CERN in Switzerland about the demonstration of the Higgs Boson, lends more support to the existence of a field that connects all consciousness and the entanglement that makes evolution possible.

Naturalist Charles Darwin, and physicist Albert Einstein also spoke of our interconnectedness: 

“All living things have much in common, in the chemical composition, their germinal vesicles, their cellular structure and the laws of growth and reproduction. Therefore I should infer that probably all the organic beings which have ever lived on the earth have descended from some one primordial form.” – Charles Darwin

“He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate 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 of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation, and a foundation for inner security.” –  Albert Einstein

As we mentioned in the “living consciously’ article, the first important transformation of living a conscious life is the realization how interconnected we are. UEF believes everything there is or was in space and time is deeply interconnected.

Though our bodies  exist in a state of separateness, when we live consciously our awareness will transcend separateness ,and bring forth the realization that all is one.  We are able to see the interconnectedness of everything.  Thus,  we will feel compassionate towards all life,  a feeling which comes from the depths of our being, and cannot be shaken. This is key to human flourishing both at the individual level and globally

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See All Commonalities Across Religions