Reality check: We’re all connected

Photo: Charles Deluvio, Unsplash.

In the business of daily life, it is hard to remember what is important.

We try to remind each other. At -crucial times of life and death — when my child was born, when my -mother died — I was able to hold what is important to me, to feel how precious and fragile life is. 

We remember for a while after these times of celebration and mourning. But in time we forget again. We get caught up in the details of our daily cares. 

My dear friend, Anita, once told me, “The spirit longs for transcendence, but the body longs for comfort.” 

So often I devote my daily tasks to providing comfort to my body and the bodies of my family members. It is hard to remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 6 not to worry, because life is more than food and the body more than clothes. 

My only son will enter high school next year. It is hard not to worry about how our family will afford to see him through college. 

As each of us strives for our own welfare and self-interest, our in-attention to collective well-being results in injustice. 

Our economy depends on cheap labor. It is easy to rejoice in a bargain without thinking of those who are paid so little to produce it. 

We extract oil and gas, minerals and precious metals from the Earth to generate energy and to make our devices. This extraction threatens the health, well-being and even lives of those who live in the impact zones of extractive industry. 

The things we do to ensure our security, to guarantee opportunity and comfort for our children (like investing “wisely” in financially safe industries that exact an unsafe toll on our collective environment) result in oppression for the vulnerable. 

Our carelessness endangers the future of humanity on an Earth where life-support systems are declining due to overconsumption.

When we think we are isolated from each other, it is hard to remember that we are all connected to each other and to creation. 

When we harm others and harm creation, we harm ourselves. It can be hard to remember this reality. 

The reality I have been taught to treasure by Indigenous elders is this: We share one created world. We are connected by a web of mutual dependence. 

In his deeply moving work, Prin-ci-ples of Tsawalk: An Indigenous Approach to Global Crisis, Indigenous scholar Umeek (E. Richard Atleo) helps us see reality more clearly by exploring Hahauulism. Umeek is from the Nuu-chah-nulth people, who are from Vancouver Island in the Canadian Pacific Northwest. 

Hahuulism prioritizes the well–being of family and community —
not just our genetic relatives but all life. 

Tsawalk, which means “one” in the Nuu-chah-nulth language, is central to this sense of reality. Umeek describes a ceremony in which his people acknowledge mutual dependence and their tendency to forget: 

“A central ceremony of hahauulism involves periodically, publicly and reverently acknowledging that humans are characterized by short-term memory. Humans have a tendency to forget; they are easily distracted. Humans have a tendency to prefer the quick fix. . . . 

“The ancient Nuu-chah-nulth guarded against falling into such times with a periodic remembrance ceremony called a uuk*aana, which means ‘we remember reality.’ ” 

Ecclesiastes 4 describes our interdependence, explaining that we depend on each other for warmth, shared labor and help. Ecclesiastes 5 describes how oppression results from hierarchy and striving for personal advantage: Wealth is hoarded to the harm of its owners, and striving for wealth equates to an absence of rest. 

Regardless of this striving, the author of Ecclesiastes muses, there is no way to hang onto wealth, because money can’t subvert death.

We all know this is true. Yet it can be hard to remember.

Seeking wealth, achievement or even security, Ecclesiastes tells us, is like chasing after the wind. When we attend to our interconnection, we find rest and meaning. 

Sarah Augustine

Sarah Augustine, a Pueblo (Tewa) woman, lives with her family in White Swan, Washington. She is the Executive Director of Read More

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