From the Director of Religious Education – April

Connected: We are them.  They are us.  – A RE-flection
We think we know this one. As we ponder the sixth source, we may find ourselves recalling our seventh principle to affirm and promote “respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.”  The connection is obvious and natural.

When talking about these two, we tend, however, to focus on the interdependence within the “natural world” – plants, animals, soil, the air, sun, moon, oceans, and breezes.  We speak of these interconnections and the importance of them as something external to us.  We forget that we are part of nature.  We are not them.  They are not us.

Or maybe we tell ourselves that we are one with all… until we are not.

It might be as simple as objecting to the “we” in the paragraphs above. *WE* do not do that.  *YOU* maybe.  NOT me. Not him. Not all of US, anyway.  Or maybe it is how we identify ourselves. We are not black. We are not white. We are not immigrant.  We are not native. We are not female, male, or third gender.  We are not gay or straight or bi or asexual.  We are not Pagan or Muslim or Christian or Atheist. We are not them.  They are not us.

This is part of a very human tendency to focus on our own circle, our own small community. Part of this temptation is that if we see others as “us” then their suffering hurts. We see them as our responsibility, our problem. That hurts.  We cannot ignore the pain.  We do not want to hurt or be hurt.  So, we tell ourselves a truth that is also not truth. We are NOT them.  They are NOT us.

Buddhism would remind us that suffering is an inescapable part of life, or rather to escape suffering we must first SEE it.  The Buddha could not become Enlightened without first seeing suffering, acknowledging it.  We have to see them.  Likewise, in many Earth-based traditions, it is recognized that death is also part of life, and death is to be no more feared than life.  Life and death are not just parts of the circle of life in nature, they are part of being human. The Ancestors or Ancient Gods are called upon, symbolically or literally, because there is power in that.  We are them. They are us.

The issues that affect others are not just their issues.  They are ours.  There is pain in this, but there is also hope.  We are all part of each other, and what affects one, affects all.  The Circle of Life is not just our connection to the cycle of predator, prey, herbivore and scavenger, nor even just to distant Ancestors. It is our connection to each other. Just as the web connects us to the dying child, it connects the dying child to us. The web connects us to the bully, and the web connects the bully to us. We can learn from them, and, perhaps, they can learn from us. We are them.  They are us.

Instead of attempting to sever the threads of the web, let us value those threads and make the web tremble with our love for each other and all life. We are the strength of each other.  Connectivity makes us stronger and more able to help one another.  We ARE them.  They ARE us.

This next month we are exploring life.  We are learning about spiders and webs and dreamcatchers.  We are learning about our Ancestors and celebrating Spring and Rebirth. We are also learning about cycles of life that connect us to all humanity and to each other in this community.  For a child, these are small wondrous things, but ones that remind us the strength in community, and more – that community extends beyond this single congregation.

Heather Cleland-Host