Buddhist activist and teacher Joanna Macy invites us to meditate on our intimate coexistence:
You know your lives are as intricately interwoven as nerve cells in the mind of a great being. . . . Out of that vast net you cannot fall. . . . No stupidity or failure or cowardice can ever sever you from that living web. For that is what you are . . . rest in that knowing. Rest in the Great Peace. . . . Out of it we can act, we can dare anything . . . and let every encounter be a homecoming to our true nature. . . .
In doing this practice, we realize that we do not have to be particularly noble or saint-like in order to wake up to the power of our connection with other beings. In our time, that simple awakening is the gift the global crises hold for us. For all its horror and delusion, nuclear war, like the toxins that our factories spew into our world, is also the manifestation of an awesome spiritual truth—the truth about the hell we create for ourselves when we cease to learn how to love. Saints, mystics, and prophets throughout the ages saw that law; now all can see it and none can escape its consequences. So we are caught now in a narrow place where we realize that Lao-tzu, the Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, and our own hearts were right all along; and we are as scared and frantic as a cornered rat—and as dangerous. But if we let it, that narrow cul-de-sac can turn into a birth canal, pressing and pushing us through the darkness of pain, until we are delivered into . . . what? Love seems too weak a word. It is, as Paul said to the Romans, “the glory to be revealed in us” [8:18]. It stirs in us now.
Macy particularly challenges people of faith to act on the teachings of our spiritual founders:
For us to regard the threat of climate catastrophe, nuclear war, the dying seas, or the poisoned air as a monstrous injustice suggests that we never took seriously the injunction to love. Perhaps we all thought that Gautama [the Buddha] and Jesus were kidding or that their teachings were meant only for saints. But now comes the daunting revelation, that we are all called to be saints—not good necessarily, or pious, or devout—but saints in the sense of just caring for one another. One wonders what terrors this knowledge must hold that we fight it so and flee from it in such pain. Can our present capacity to extinguish all life tell us this? Can it force us to face the terrors of love? Can it be the occasion of our birth?
In that possibility we take heart. Even in confusion and fear, with all our weariness and petty faults, we can let that awareness work in and through our lives.
Joanna Macy, World as Lover, World as Self: Courage for Global Justice and Planetary Awakening, 30th anniv. ed. (Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press, 1991, 2007, 2021), 234–235. Note: ellipses in text are from Macy.
Explore Further. . .
- Listen to The Cosmic We hosts Barbara Holmes and Donny Bryant speak with activist and author Belvie Rooks on “growing a global heart.”
- Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image Credit: Perry Riddle, Lunch Hour in the Sun (detail), 1976, photograph, Illinois, public domain. Dick Rowan, California – Southern California Big Sur Coastal Area (detail), 1972, photograph, California. Flip Schulke, Inexpensive Retirement Hotels (detail), 1973, photograph, Florida, public domain. Jenna Keiper, 2022, triptych art, United States.
This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story.
Image Inspiration: Humanity – we find ways to connect with each other across location, age, and space.
Story from Our Community:
The teaching that sin and salvation are collective really resonates with me. For some time, I have believed that my every thought, word, and behavior affects the entire Cosmos in some way. What a responsibility that belief gives to me. At the same time, I am heartened and grateful that ALL are healed. I am all the more motivated to live out of love in the midst of my own weakness. —Paula M.
Prayer for our community:
God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough, because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.