Life is random. There is no getting around that fact; just when we think we’ve got it all figured out, life jumps out at us, trips us up, yells “Gotcha!” and runs off again. Life laughs at our pitiful attempts at extracting meaning and sensibility out of our short time here.
Some turn to work and careers. Others look to the people around them. And still others find various comforting leitmotifs flowing throughout their lives; ideas, objects or concepts rising through life’s tapestry over and over again, throwing a faintly familiar pattern over an otherwise sporadic and meaningless chain of events.
For some, like Kundera’s head-strong Sabina, it is a tangible bowler hat; for others, it is a musical strain that springs from every situation (such as Beethoven’s string quartet, “Es muß sein!”).
As for me, it is a concept as wide and long as life itself: the concept of Relationship.
This is not only about the people you meet; while a huge part, that is much too small to encompass the entirety of life. Relationship, with a capital R, speaks to our interaction with all that is, and everything’s interaction with all else. Everything is interconnected. Nothing is isolated.
The more I have seen in life, the more I realize how everything is in Relationship with everything else. Nothing exists on its own. Compartmentalization is something of a joke, nothing more than our pitiful attempt to hide the greatness of Life from our eyes.
Buddhist teachings come closest to these ideas. As expounded by Thich Nhat Hanh in The Heart of Understanding, nothing can exist alone and in isolation. A stone, a sheet of paper, an apple core – within all of these, exists the entire cosmos.
Could a sheet of paper exist, were it not for the cloud that rained upon the tree? And the logger that cut that tree? And the printer, the writer and seller who made and sold those pages? Thousands of lives and elements directly touched this page. It is not so extraordinary, then, that all things relate to, no, are each other.
Nothing can born except that others die. From the perceived ugliness of death, decay, rot and filth comes the beauty of a rose. They cannot exist without the other; therefore, they are one and the same. And if you nurture the least of these, you nurture the past, present and future of all life. If you hurt one piece of it, you hurt all that is, was and will be.
These words are not just frilly overtures; you can easily see it happening in the world outside. Even now, land all across the aptly-named Corn Belt are dwindling in fertility and population. Even now, an entire nation is growing sicker and sicker from cheap food and ruined resources. The delicate Relationship between man, the earth and his sustenance has turned into a monetary transaction – to the detriment of many generations to come.
And to whose benefit? Large corporations grow fatter as the middle class dies off. People who are capable of making change are forced to fight each other for simple sustenance. This death does more than eradicate a way of life: it poisons the earth, upturns communities and sickens a nation.
Are you willing to buy into such poison? To condone such treacherous things being done to the earth? To its animals and peoples? To yourself?
Everything is connected. The older I become, the more I realize how all-encompassing these interrelationships truly are. I hope and pray, as I enter into my 25th year of life, that I will learn to honor these relationships. I will honor myself and the sanctity of my being. I will honor those around me, for they and I are one and the same. I will honor the earth, for from it comes our life, and our life will go to it again. And I will honor Life.
Here is to another quarter century: may all my doings bring joy, love and light to those around me. And may I learn patience and acceptance as I discover the beauty of Life. For Life is truly a beautiful thing.