Friday, January 14, 2005

Morality of Connection

So I haven't worked this out all the way yet, but I've been looking around lately and noticing that I need a way to see the world that reminds me of what to strive for and not just a way to hate and fear the injustice and selfishness I see.

I keep coming back to my own sense that connection is the foundation of all ethics. As you know, I've been reading about the latest discoveries in quantum physics. I won't bore you with the details, but at the most basic, physicists think they've discovered the connective piece that ties all theories together, a piece that explains how our universe went from big bang to the floating particles that make up our daily experience. They're calling this superstring theory (which is fascinating and everyone should know more about it), but what's important is that it seems to prove that we are all connected. The universe may be expanding, but at a fundamental level, gravity and all other forces actually strive for connection. You've heard that all things are relative, right? Some detractors say that the theory of relativity spelled the end of enforceable morality because how can anyone be held accountable for actions when all things are relative?

What scientists have discovered is that all things are relative because all things are connected. This makes sense. Things are relative because they are in relationship. What this means in terms of morality is that you and I can have different ideas of what is moral, but our actions in relation to one another must always honor that on all levels, we are connected. I may hate what you think or do, but if I act to isolate or expell you, I am acting in violation of the laws of the universe. If, on the other hand, I act to understand why you believe what you believe or work to find a way for both of us to agree about a common response to whatever it is, then I am acting morally. The things that bring us together are what is real and moral because they reflect the truth of our universe.

Just think about all the ways this plays out in different situations. Compromise is moral; violence is immoral. Reform is moral (because you work to give someone the skills they need to live in communion with others and thereby bring someone back into community); capital punishment is immoral. Polluting is immoral; deep ecology is moral. Love and family are moral; denouncing one segment of society for the way in which they express love is immoral.

In reality, this sense of connection is at the heart of almost all world religions. Those religions that I find repugnant are those that put one set of beliefs against all others or one people against all others. The religions that embrace, the religions that acknowledge our deep connection with the world around us, the religions that praise compassion and understanding -- these are the moral religions founded in life and reality. These are religions about union, communion, community, connection.

Even pyschology works in this way. The healthiest individuals are those who can love and support, and accept love and support in return. The sickest among us are those who are unsocial. Psychopaths are those who feel no connection to anyone. They can feel no respect for life. Doesn't it hold, then, that the opposite -- those with a fundamental respect for life (which at its base is about connection) -- are those with the strongest moral base?

The other critical element in all of this is the idea of individuality. All particles in the universe are simultaneously discrete and connected. We are simultaneously matter and energy, just as we are simultaneously individuals and community. This means we must honor individuality as much as we honor connection. Those things that seek to gloss over our rights as individuals are as much in violation of universal laws as those that seek to profit just one elite group.

What an elegant universe, with so much to teach us about ourselves and our lives and our actions! It is so easy to fall into the trap of disregarding those who hold opinions we don't share. It is hard to remember that by doing so we violate the connections between us.

So here's to communion and to the peacemakers, the physicists, the poets, and all others who conceive of the metaphors that bring us together.

May we feel the connections more strongly than those forces that seek to pull us apart -- the forces of fear and anger and righteousness.

May all of us find peace.

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