Light at the edge
Oneness is a fundamental, creative force present in all life, empowered when individual consciousness recognizes and aligns with it.
When we experience oneness, we feel in the gut and in the heart that we are part of something beyond ourselves, that there is harmony and meaning in life, and that every human being and every aspect of existence is uniquely valuable. We live oneness through respect, compassion, cooperation, and creativity, which naturally support the most fundamental needs of life.
For centuries, oneness has been described as a spiritual experience and principle. In Taoism, oneness is the Tao, “the way” of life, which, like nature, has its own rhythms and patterns. Mahayana Buddhism trains its disciples to awaken from a solid, individual “self” into an infinite, intelligent oneness that is empty and compassionate. And in the New Testament, the letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians describes “…one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in you all.”
Oneness as a spiritual ideal can seem daunting — as though we can only experience it after great effort. But oneness is not special — it’s special that we don’t live it more often. When we curb our natural response to help those in need, when we impose our will on nature instead of discovering how to work with it, when we choose to “get ahead” instead of finding meaning and dignity in our work — we undermine the natural, relational, and unifying power of oneness.
Most of us live oneness without even knowing it — in our private and family lives where we naturally seek and value empathy, care, love, and unity. But these same experiences, which create the foundations of our most important relationships, can also play a role in building the future structures of our global community.
Reflections of oneness
In the modern world, oneness is reflected through our growing understanding of ecological interdependence — the ways every plant and animal species depend upon each other, and how the health of a whole ecosystem depends upon the health of each part. Nature’s invitation to experience the harmony of oneness is so potent that even a simple walk on the beach or in the woods can help us feel that we are not separate from its beauty and power, but rather it is within us and we are within it.
The truth of oneness is also revealed through quantum physics, which identifies a stratum of reality where energy and matter interact and affect each other continuously.
Developments in technology like the Internet and global communication reflect how oneness works, and give us tools to align with it. Like oneness, the World Wide Web is non-hierarchical. Information is equally available to those who want to participate, and the web exists both because of and beyond our individual contributions.
The Internet and mobile communications help us dissolve previously impenetrable personal and national boundaries, bringing the lives of others into our own world, allowing us to share ideas and influence each other in ways that are unprecedented in human history.
Without even using technology we can know oneness through focusing on one particular experience or object, recognizing its true nature and how it is synchronized with all life, as William Blake wrote, “To see a world in a grain of sand…” Or it can be seen when we pull back to look at the bigger picture, as when Russell Schweickart, the astronaut who orbited the earth in 1969, said in a 1974 speech, “You know, there are hundreds of people killing each other over some imaginary line that you can’t see. From where you see it, the thing is a whole, and it’s so beautiful. And you wish you could take one from each side in hand, and say, ‘Look. Look at it from this perspective. Look at that. What’s important?'”
The power of oneness
Because oneness connects us to all life, when we align with it we can access sources of energy and inspiration that might not otherwise be available.
This power of oneness is illustrated through the possibilities born from genuine cooperation, the creative power of dialogue, and the inspirational nature of generosity. The extreme speed at which we have harnessed the Internet shows a latent need for free and creative exchange, regardless of culture, geography, status and other boundaries.
And the power of oneness is seen through the reverberating impacts of a single or specific contribution to life — in the way that protecting one species of plant or animal allows so many other species to thrive, or how organic school lunch programs improve students’ health and well being as well as grades and test scores, and contribute to community cohesion and social justice.
When we act with the intention to serve the whole of life — not just ourselves — we access a power that is truly unlimited. Individuals like Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Mother Teresa reflect the great transformative power of aligning with oneness, which can shape world history through the simplest of attitudes and actions.
A mindset of duality can limit the creative potential of any particular moment when it creates hierarchies in which the needs and gifts of one group or individual are prioritized over those of another. Dualistic thinking can easily support labels like “right” and “wrong” or “better than” and “less than,” which undermine cooperation and collaboration. When we limit our consciousness to the seeming boundaries of “us” and “them,” we cut ourselves off from the life force that threads through all of us, and which is itself a source of energy and innovation. Max Lerner, the America journalist once said: “Either men will learn to live like brothers or they will die like beasts,” which emphasizes the creative power of unity and the destructiveness of isolation and competition.
Oneness does not deny individuality or diversity, but rather shines a light on how separate parts can play different but equally valuable roles in the creativity of life. This fundamentally balanced view is stamped on every US coin, with the phrase “E Pluribus Unum,” or “Out of the many, One,” which identifies a national identity comprised of individuals and groups.
Why oneness, why now?
At this time in history, many developing nations are following the example of the West’s extreme individualism, where an emphasis on personal gain and achievement has overshadowed an emphasis on community well-being. In the United States, our free market economy engenders the attitude to “Look out for number one” and ignore the needs of others — expecting the market to bear the responsibilities for injustices or inequities. When we make decisions based almost solely on what an individual or corporation wants, too often we leave others with fewer resources, and we externalize the costs to the environment.
Around the globe, dualistic attitudes that allow the prioritization of one group’s needs over another’s have depleted the earth’s resources, destroyed innocent people and torn apart families and communities. From the historical genocide of Aboriginal Australians and Native North Americans, to ethnic conflicts in Africa and around the world, all reveal the fruitless cycle of violence that ensues when one group demands the fulfillment of its own agenda without a recognition of the others’ fundamentally equal value and shared humanity.
Albert Einstein once said, “The world we have made as a result of the level of thinking we have done thus far creates problems that we cannot solve at the same level at which we have created them,” and many of the world’s ‘problems’ were born from a mindset of duality. Individuals carrying a perspective of oneness are already helping to resolve the conflicts raging in our world, restore dignity to those who have been denied rights and opportunities, and revitalize many of the natural systems we have depleted.
Like Brahm Ahmadi, who recognized the relationship between poor diet, illness, and lack of community in a low-income neighborhood in Oakland, California, and responded by creating a community garden that brings people together through farming and cooking classes, and providing healthy locally-grown food.
Or Nelsa Curbelo, who listened to the gang youth of Guayaquil, Ecuador, trusted in the creative power of collaboration and developed ways gang members could work together to restore economic opportunity and pride to their neighborhoods.
Or Titie Plaatjie from Port Elizabeth, South Africa, who started a grassroots soccer league to educate children about AIDS and HIV prevention.
How do I need to be in order for you to be free?
One of our earliest interviews of the Global Oneness Project was with Orland Bishop, a community organizer from Watts, near Los Angeles. During the interview, Orland asked the question, “How do I need to be in order for you to be free?” It is this type of question that arises when we experience the world through a lens of deep respect and awareness of interconnection. And it is from this question that new answers will arise and new stories can be told.
See for more at: https://www.globalonenessproject.org