This time of year is when those of us who live on the coast start bracing ourselves for the approaching peak of hurricane season. June 1 is the official start of hurricane season, but the storms started early this year with Tropical Storm Arthur in mid-May. As the season dawns upon us for yet another year, individuals, families, and businesses review their disaster plans, say their prayers, or both. While there is some level of planning at community levels, it is not as much as you may think would be practical. In today’s world, we largely fend for ourselves when disaster looms ahead. Sometimes it takes the strike of disaster for a community to bind together in a moment of tragedy. Why are these bonds not in place to the same degree in the good times or at least in preparation for the disaster? We do recognize the importance of community-level resiliency when negotiating plans for events of shared impacts, such as storms or climate change, or shared resources, such as transportation infrastructure. Would the bonds of compassion and neighborly love not be the foundational part of a resiliency plan? Compassion and neighborly love cannot form without communication that is open, respectful, empathetic.
We learned earlier about trees having the ability to recognize and support their kin. However, that does not mean that they cause harm to all who are not their kin. In fact, trees need a forest to weather the variable climates of hot, cold, dry, wet and stormy. In fact, trees can live to be so old because they are not just looking out for themselves. Impressively, there is a spruce in Sweden that is thought to be 9500 years old, over 115 times the length of the human lifespan! Think about yourself as a tree – if there were constant fatalities of the trees around you, these fatalities would open large gaps in the canopy, exposing you to heat, drying out your roots. Also, storms could penetrate down into the forest through these openings causing your uprootal. Suddenly, the neighbor next to you that you perceived to be only a competitor is the very reason for your protection and the closest individual to you that can support your healing if you are injured or malnourished.
Storms attack communities not individuals. We cannot protect ourselves from big storms. And alone, we cannot rebuild after we are hit by the storm.
The concept of Ubuntu says: A person is a person through other persons. Please read that twice or twenty times. A person is a person through other persons. The Book of Joy, by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Adams expands:
“Ubuntu says when I have a small piece of bread, it is for my benefit that I share it with you. Because, after all, none of us came into the world on our own. We needed two people to bring us into the world…And you realize that in a very real sense we’re meant for a very profound complementarity. It is the nature of things. You don’t have to be a believer in anything. I mean I could not speak as I am speaking without having learned it from other human beings. I could not walk as a human being. I could not think as a human being, except through learning it from other human beings. I learned to be a human being from other human beings. We belong in this delicate network.”
Looks like there is a storm brewing. We are killing each other, literally and heartbreakingly. It is time to reach out and intertwine your roots with those of your neighbor. It does not matter if they are not like you or if you do not even agree with them. In fact, diverse communities are stronger than monocultures. Differences do create an opportunity to learn; differences do not preclude the ability to love. Expand your roots; expand your love; make us stronger; make humanity whole.