Friday, January 18, 2008

It Takes a Drop of Water to Create an Ocean: on Inter-Being

Many people think that they are too small and insignificant to make a difference in this world. They don't vote, volunteer, or do anything nice because they feel that only one person cannot make a dent in the world's problems.

While it is true that only one person cannot end world hunger or stop all the violence and war, your actions are important. Look at the US Presidential elections.

In the New Hampshire primary, Barack Obama was riding high from his win in the Iowa caucuses. Journalists and political analysts thought highly of his chances in New Hampshire, and pre-primary polls showed him with a pretty strong lead. But he didn't win.

Why, you ask?

The young people who so fervently revered him didn't bother to vote. They didn't think their waterdrop was enough to fill a big ocean like a presidential election. But it did.

While the race is far from over, it goes to show that the individual can make a difference. We are all one with each other, and our actions affect more than just ourselves, though we may not think so. This is at the core of the philosophy Thich Nhat Hanh describes as Interbeing.

What is Interbeing?

The basic theory is that all are one, one are all. While this may seem very broad, let us look at a tree.

The basic substance of the tree is common to all, we would call them "Tree Elements." But a tree by itself is not a tree. If we use mindfulness to look beyond the surface, we can see that a tree is made up of "non-tree elements."

For example, without the sunshine, seed, gardener, or soil in which the tree grows, the tree would not exist. This state is described as Interbeing. Any one thing is dependant on the other, so we are all connected to and responsible for each other.

Though Interbeing may seem to be very simple when explained this way, there are many facets to this type of philosophy. We begin to see how selfishness creates negative consequences for others where we haven't seen it before. We can use this insight to change our behavior to be more kind to the earth and each other.

Some ways to practice Interbeing are:

1. Plant a tree.
2. Stop littering.
3. Volunteer at your local Boys and Girls Club.
4. Smile at everyone you see today.

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