“We are transitioning away from a narrative that holds us separate from each other and the world, toward a new and ancient story that Thich Nhat Hanh calls interbeing. In that world worldview, self and universe mirror each other; whatever happens to any being is also happening in some corner of ourselves. Every act we take ripples out to affect the whole world, and eventually comes back to affect ourselves as well. Rupert Sheldrake articulates the same understanding as the principle of morphic resonance: a change that happens in one place generates a field of change that causes similar changes to happen everywhere.
“The principle of interbeing or morphic resonance coincides with our felt experience of significance when we engage the people and land around us with love, courage, and compassion. Even if we have no idea how those choices will affect the larger world, we sense that they do, and yet, paradoxically, we don’t make the choices for that reason. Sometimes we encounter special choice points in life that seem to be deliberately constructed to offer no possibility of selfish benefit — not even the benefit of being able to tell yourself you are doing some big important thing. These moments are opportunities for self-creation, when we choose to listen to the voice of the heart over the voice of the calculating mind, which says we are being impractical, unreasonable, or irresponsible.
“Reasoning from interbeing, applying the principle of morphic resonance, this opposition between heart and mind crumbles away. Every act of compassion strengthens the global field of compassion; every choice of conscience strengthens the global field of conscience. Each act becomes equal; each act “scales up,” even if by a process so mysterious and untraceable as to evade any perceptible sequence of cause and effect. How can anyone know what fruits will come from that monumental effort at patience you made, unwitnessed, when you stayed gentle with your child on that frustrating afternoon?
“This is not to say that we should engage in the small and humble in hopes that it will have macroscopic impact anyway. Nor is it to replace one valorization of bigness based on Newtonian causality with another based on morphic resonance. My intention is to get scale-based thinking out of the way of love-in-action. I find that the story of interbeing allays my unease that says, “What if it doesn’t make a difference?” “What if it is all for nothing?”
“For me, scaling down implies a kind of trust that it is OK to do just this, right here, right now. Letting go of controlling the macroscopic outcome, action becomes a kind of prayer, a kind of aligning oneself with the world one wants to see.”
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