Monday, December 26, 2005

Even Small Pebbles Can Yield Big Ripples

From the perspective of many Taoists, one of the worst legacies of the Christian belief system is the idea of humankind's separation from nature. When the Old Testament urged the “chosen people” to hold dominion over the earth, this directive initiated human actions set toward raping and pillaging the planet. Even today, as scientists sound the clarion call, corporate giants continue to pollute and destroy the womb of creation and sustenance like there's no tomorrow -- One day we will find that this is a self-fulfilling prophesy!

It is the Christian concept of dualism (i.e., being separated from anyone or anything else) that has led us down this road toward ecological and, hence, societal catastrophe. Dualism has spawned the hegemonic truth of individual and/or national isolationism. It's as if far too many Christians do not understand the simple lesson Lao Tzu learned eons ago – Far from being separate, everything that makes up our universe inextricably is connected.

Once we genuinely recognize this connection, then we come intuitively to understand that every action causes a ripple effect that is felt in some degree throughout the cosmos.

This is not true because I believe it. It is also not true because some ancient Taoist sage wrote it down. No, it’s true because we can see this truth at work every day in nature and, incidentally, in the conduct of human interaction.

The natural world is always changing and reacting as a result of everything that goes on. If one locale receives more rain than usual for an extended period of time, it sets in motion a chain of occurrences.

Certain species flourish, while others suffer mightily and some may face extinction. Some species may migrate to a different locale altogether. Rivers carve out new channels. The overall climate may become altered. All these changes and far more occur as a reaction to the excess amount of precipitation.

In this same vein, human beings – who are part of this connected cosmos we call reality – impact the world by the decisions and actions we take. Because none of us has the vision nor wisdom to understand the totality of our reality, every act that we undertake spurs a chain of events we typically refuse to acknowledge. In common parlance, this is referred to as the law of unintended consequences.

While it is certainly true that it would be next to impossible to completely rid our world of these unintended consequences, we could greatly reduce the propensity for such by simply acknowledging the connection between ourselves and everything else. If I acknowledge that my decisions will impact my brethren AND future generations, then I will be more careful and cautious.

In my next entry, I’ll provide some examples of how some well-intentioned, but short-sighted, decisions and/or policies have led to some rather nasty unintended consequences.

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