I was talking to a friend of mine about the concept of interconnectedness that was so wonderfully introduced by Thich Nhat Hanh in his story about the table – A Table and the Universe – where it’s easy to see that we’re interconnected with everything in the universe and we can’t consider ourselves to be separate entities independent from the universe. My friend jumped up and said that he had a diagram that I should see. Here it is;
It’s a simple and lovely diagram (it even looks a bit like a dove). It’s meant to show how we derive from two parents who, in turn, each derive from two parents, and so on, and how quickly our ancestors multiply out.
What struck me immediately is that can be looked at in two quite different ways.
It can minimize our individual value
The first emotion this diagram created in me was humility. I saw this fan of people that came before me and it generated the feeling that I’m not very significant. I’m just one person amongst this vast array and so I can’t have much importance.
It can maximize our individual value
But then I looked at it another way. I looked at all the people, all the couples who had to get together just so that I could come into the world. Every little circle in this diagram, all the people, had to meet precise other individuals and have children that would meet other precise individuals so that this whole diagram could come about. And, with each courtship, relationship and marriage there will be an amazing story about chance meetings and the luck behind how they ended up together.
So an amazing series of “chance” events had to be strung together just so that I could be here in this world. The probability of that happening is extremely low, so this diagram tells me that each of us is extremely special. To think that all these “actors” had to play specific roles in the past just so we could be here. That generates a deep emotion of gratitude in me.
All of us have intrinsic individual value
There’s no doubt in my mind that every one of us is extremely special. Nobody more special than anybody else. We’re all equally special. There are two TED talks along these lines that I like, one by Caroline McHugh (The Art of Being Yourself) and one by Boyd Varty (Ubuntu – I am because of you).
This is a very simple thought process but it fills me with awe. It make me respect myself as an amazing individual and, equally, respect every single person on this planet as an amazing creation worthy of unconditional love. That might be a huge goal, but it’s an extremely valuable one. I’m hoping that the amount of unconditional love on this planet increases exponentially.