About

This question of how we are connected to other living things is a universal question, but the answers vary, as is the case with all universal questions. Science explores this question differently than religions, which differ from one another in the way the questions and answers are formulated. But generally speaking, religions since ancient times have focused a lot on our interconnectedness with other life. We have known about the interconnectedness of nature for a longtime, but we seldom think deeply about the profound interconnectedness of our own species—the interconnectedness of the social world which, if grasped fully, would unlock our capacity for universal love. We can no longer deny our interconnectedness. Instead, it is time for us to fully awaken to this reality and to realize that our individual welfare depends on the welfare of others.

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Quotations

Confucius
Founder of Confucianism
Confucianism

“Men are close to one another by nature. They diverge as a result of repeated practice.”

C.S. Lewis
Christian theologian and writer
Christianity

“For there was a time when every man was part of his mother, and (earlier still) part of his father as well: and when they were part of his grandparents. If you could see humanity spread out in time, as God sees it, it would not look like a lot of separate things dotted about. It would look like one single growing thing— rather like a very complicated tree. Every individual would appear connected with every other. And not only that. Individuals are not really separate from God any more than from one another. Every man, woman, and child all over the world is feeling and breathing at this moment only because God, so to speak, is ‘keeping him going.’”

Chuang Tzu
Daoist sage
Daoism

“Heaven and Earth and I were born at the same time, and all life and I are one.”

Baha’u’llah
Baha'i prophet
Baha'i

“The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.”

Pope Francis
Catholic leader
Christianity

“Quite a few years of life have strengthened my conviction that each and everyone's existence is deeply tied to that of others: life is not time merely passing by, life is about interactions.”

Shantideva
Buddhist monk
Buddhism

“The hand and other limbs are many and distinct,
But all are one—the body to be kept and guarded.
Likewise, different beings, in their joys and sorrows,
Are, like me, all one in wanting happiness.”

Desmond Tutu
South African theologian and activist
Christianity

Ubuntu is very difficult to render into a Western language. It speaks of the very essence of being human. When we want to give high praise to someone we say, ‘Yu, u nobuntu’; ‘Hey, so-and-so has ubuntu.’ Then you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, ‘My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours.’ We belong in a bundle of life. We say, ‘A person is a person through other persons.’ It is not, ‘I think therefore I am.’ It says rather: ‘I am human because I belong. I participate, I share.’ A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed, or treated as if they were less than who they are.”

David Kaiser
Physicist and historian of science
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

“[Bell’s] Theorem, named for the fiery Irish physicist John S. Bell, stipulated that quantum objects that had once interacted would retain some strange link or connection, even after they had moved arbitrarily far apart from each other. Bell used words like nonlocality and entanglement to describe his result. To many [Fudamental Fysiks] group members, the phenomenon seemed equally evocative of Buddhist teachings. As one group member [Nick Herbert] put it in 1976, ‘Bell’s Theorem’ gives precise physical content to the mystic motto, ‘we are all one.’”

Pascal Boyer
Cognitive anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

“Humans have for a long time—long enough to make a difference in evolutionary terms—lived in organized groups and in intense social interaction. Humans need cooperation because they depend on rich information, well beyond what individual experience can provide. Other people provide most of this information. Also, most of what humans do requires cooperation.”

The Bhagavad Gita
Hindu scripture
Hinduism

“Those who possess this wisdom have equal regard for all. They see the same Self in a spiritual aspirant and an outcaste, in an elephant, a cow, and a dog. Such people have mastered life. With even mind they rest in Brahman, who is perfect and is everywhere the same.”

Anne C. Klein
Scholar of Buddhism
Buddhism

“We must not forget that ‘relationships’ in the modern West and in traditional Asian culture like Tibet are quite different.  Intimate personal exchanges, self-revelation, and analyses of deep feelings are not part of Tibetan friendships or family conversation.  Relationships occupy a quite different place in cultures where people are already well ‘connected’ by clan, village, and ideas of the cosmos.  On the other hand, successful interpersonal connections are also far more crucial to psychological well-being in the West, where more pervasive forms of connection are often lacking.”

Ruth H. Chang
Scholar of East Asian religions
Confucianism

“Qi constitutes every part of the physical world, linking all persons with the rest of their environment. Thus, according to D. C. Lau and Roger T. Ames, the reason why the Chinese classics do not address the issue of how such ambiguous notions as tian are just described and not really explained is that the goal of such texts as the Lunyu (Analects) and the Daodejing is not to provide a comprehensive explanation of the world. It is rather to provide guidance in how people should interact with the phenomena around them. The philosophers perhaps believed that it was more important to know how to relate with others than to understand the conditions in the world.”

The Upanishads
Hindu scripture
Hinduism

“Now, take the bees, son. They prepare the honey by gathering nectar from a variety of trees and by reducing that nectar to a homogenous whole. In that state the nectar from each different tree is not able to differentiate: ‘I am the nectar of that tree,’ and ‘I am the nectar of this tree.’ In exactly the same way, son, when all these creatures merge into the existent, they are not aware that ‘We are merging into the existent.’ No matter what they are in this world—whether it is a tiger, a lion, a wolf, a boar, a worm, a moth, a gnat, or a mosquito—they all merge into that. The finest essence here—that constitutes the self of this whole world; that is the truth; that is the self (atman). And that’s how you are, Svetaketu.”

Stephen Hawking
Theoretical physicist
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

“We are all now connected by the Internet, like neurons in a giant brain.”

Huston Smith
Scholar of religion
Confucianism

“Jen defines the ideal relationship which should pertain between individuals—the character is comprised of the character for “human being” joined to the character for “two.” Variously translated as goodness, man-to-man-ness, benevolence, and love, it is perhaps best rendered as human-heartedness. Jen was the virtue of virtues in Confucius’ eyes.”

Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Russian novelist
Art & Literature

“How can you tell, Bakhmutov, what significance such a communion of one individual with another will have in the latter’s destiny? For here you have a whole lifetime, with an infinity of ramifications which are hidden from us[…]In planting your seed, in offering your ‘alms,’ your good deed in whatever form, you are giving away part of your individuality and receiving part of another’s[…]On the other hand, all your thoughts, all the seeds planted by you, which perhaps you have forgotten, will take root and grow; whoever received them from you will pass them on to another. And how will you know what part you will have played in shaping the destiny of mankind?”

Martin Buber
Austrian-Israeli Jewish philosopher
Judaism

“The I of the basic word I-You appears as a person and becomes conscious of itself as subjectivity (without any dependent genitive). Egos appear by setting themselves apart from other egos. Persons appear by entering into relation to other persons. One is the spiritual form of natural differentiation, the other that of natural association.”

Jiddu Krishnamurti
Philosopher and speaker
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

“The world is your relationship with another. The world is not something separate from you and me; the world, society, is the relationship that we establish or seek to establish between each other.”

Chinese Fairy Tales and Fantasies
Collection of Chinese stories
Art & Literature

“Indeed, first the sages would bring together the spirits of the dead and other demons, next they would gather the peoples of the eight outlying directions, lastly they would assemble the beasts and insects for their lessons. This shows that all species which have blood and breath do not differ much in their hearts and minds. The holy sages knew this well, and that is why they taught all and left none out.”

Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz
Astrophysicist
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

“I would like to end my talk by sharing a myth that is very close to my heart. A myth from the Chichimeca culture, which is a very powerful Mesoamerican culture. And the Chichimecas believe that our essence was assembled in the heavens. And on its journey towards us, it actually fragmented into tons of different pieces. So my abuelo used to say, "One of the reasons you feel incomplete is because you are missing your pieces." But don't be fooled by that. You've been given an incredible opportunity of growth. Why? Because it's not like those pieces were scattered on earth and you have to go and pick them up. No, those pieces fell into other people. And only by sharing them you will become more complete. Yes, during your life, there's going to be individuals that have these huge pieces that make you feel whole. But in your quest of being complete, you have to treasure and share every single one of those pieces."

Martin Buber
Austrian-Israeli Jewish philosopher
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

“All actual life is encounter.”

Lieh Tzu
Daoist sage
Daoism

“The Primal Origin has no essence, no form, and no substance. From its undifferentiated oneness, it divides into unaccountable myriad things, and yet in an instant, all things can return to the original oneness[…]We are interconnected with all things—plants and animals, heaven and earth—because all things trace their origins to and owe their existence to the Primal Oneness.”

The Qur'an
Islamic scripture
Islam

“[A]ll the creatures that crawl on the earth and those that fly with their wings are communities like yourselves. We have missed nothing out of the Record– in the end they will be gathered to their Lord.”

Lieh Tzu
Daoist sage
Daoism

“The action of one thing produces effects on another. In a universe in which all things are interconnected, this is just natural. Thus, a shape and its shadow, a sound and its echo are always together. When there is action, there is effect. When there is effect, there is a response in action.”

Huston Smith
Scholar of religion
Confucianism

“The point is not merely that human relationships are fulfilling; the Confucian claim runs deeper than this. It is, rather, that apart from human relationships there is no self. The self is a center of relationships. It is constructed through its interactions with others and is defined by the sum of its social roles.”

The Qur'an
Islamic scripture
Islam

“People, We created you all from a single man and a single woman, and made you into races and tribes so that you should recognize one another.”

Albert Einstein
Theoretical physicist
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

“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 feeling 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 of nature in its beauty.”

John Donne
English poet
Art & Literature

"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."

Lise Kingo
CEO of United Nations Global Compact
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

“We are interconnected with and interdependent on each other in ways we did not fully understand before.”

Jeremy Lent
author
Art & Literature

“Our global civilization is on an unsustainable course because the meaning we’ve derived from the world has historically been based on disconnection […] By continuing to see humans as essentially separate from nature and from each other, we’ve found ourselves on a path either to collapse or a bifurcation of humanity. What is ultimately required is a shift towards a new way of finding meaning from our existence – a new global consciousness, based on an underlying and all-infusing sense of connectedness.”

The Hebrew Bible
Jewish scripture
Judaism

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)

The New Testament
Christian scripture
Christianity

“In Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others”  (Romans 12:5)

Marianne Moyaert
Scholar of theology
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

“The human subject is not self-sufficient and solitary but can only fully develop its humanity by reaching out to others and becoming part of a historico-cultural web of relationships. Human beings are essentially directed toward one another for flourishing.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson
American astrophysicist and science communicator 1958
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

“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.”

Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk
Hasidic Rabbi and leader
Judaism

“If I am I because you are you, and you are you because I am I, then I am not I and you are not you. But if I am I because I am I, and you are you because you are you, then I am I and you are you.”