Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Principle of Interconnection

by Troy Chapman

One of the principles of the Ethics Project I run at Kinross Correctional Facility is the Principle of Interconnection. Simply stated, this principle states that all things are connected on both the physical and metaphysical levels.

One way we're all familiar with physical interconnection is the environment. The entire modern environmental or "green" movement is built on an awareness of this interconnection. In the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, we learned the hard lesson that no matter where we dump toxins in the environment they always find their way back to us. We couldn't see exactly how each thing was connected to something else but diseases and various other consequences of our actions assured us there was some connection.
We've learned a lot more about ecosystems since then but we still can't trace every connection. It's just too complex a system. In order to live in a balanced way with the environment, to be "green," we assume this connection even when we can't actually see it. We act as if dumping something "over there" is the same as dumping it in our own backyard — because in the long run it is.

Just as we've acknowledged interconnection in the physical environment we need now to acknowledge it in the metaphysical. Our thoughts, beliefs and mental energies, as well as other metaphysical things such as truth, beauty, goodness and integrity are all part of the same web in which the physical world exists. This is a whole other layer to the interconnected world.

Continuing the ecological metaphor, we can think of certain types of thought and action as harmful pollutants that we dump into the environment. We know what's harmful or helpful by asking what decreases or increases integrity and wholeness — that is, soundness, health and well being — in the world. This is the basis of holistic
ethical thinking.

If we accept the principle of interconnection, we know that dumping toxins into the metaphysical environment is every bit as self-destructive as dumping them into the physical environment. And, as in the physical environment, it may seem that we can get ahead personally by disregarding this truth — say, by making a profit from dumping industrial waste into a river — but this is an illusion. If I steal from you for example, it may seem that I come out ahead but in truth I have reduced integrity in the world and now have to live in that same world.

We may tell ourselves, "My little piece of litter or my little bit of pollution won't make any difference," but this is the thinking that has created the polluted world we live in. All other polluters are saying the same thing — my little bit won't matter. But of course it does matter.

Furthermore, by stealing from you I not only reduce your integrity and that of the community we share but, in order to do the deed, I have had to reduce my own integrity as well. It's as if I've carried toxic waste out to dump on your property but along the way I’ve spilled it in our community as well as all over myself. This spillover is unavoidable.

This is bad news if I’m dumping toxins but it’s actually quite good news if I decide to “go green” metaphysically. As a friend once told me, the hose that waters the garden always gets soaked. If I bring wholeness into the world with my thoughts, actions and life energy, I will inevitably be more whole and vice versa.

So the principle of interconnection stands not only as a warning to avoid harmfulness but also as an invitation to actively embrace helpfulness. We heal our own lives by becoming healers; we become fulfilled by contributing to the fulfillment of others; we find the way to freedom by guiding others to it.

So, what’s the take-away?

  • We all live in two environments, the physical and the metaphysical and all things are interconnected within and between these two environments.
  • Nonphysical pollution is as real and as toxic as physical pollution.
  • All metaphysical pollution (i.e., harmfulness) comes with spillover and always poisons the polluter first.
  • All helpfulness also comes with spillover and this spillover is the surest way to “get our share.” We should become vessels of what we desire for ourselves.


Anonymous said...

A long time ago, my life changed because of two sentence Ram Dass wrote: "You are consciousness involved in a nature package...Every act you perform increases the total amount of consciousness in the universe." It's what I still live by. Troy has explained this principle much better today than I can.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully explained. Troy, if you study the interconnectedness of all of your blog posts, you will find your life's theme and purpose, I am sure.
You epitomize the balancing of opposing forces which is the foundation of interconnection: you are incarcerated physically, but more free mentally as a result. If you were working a regular job, or unemployed (like so many in Michigan), your mind would be clogged by the pursuit of tangible things, rather than the pursuit of truth. Maybe prison was the key to freeing your great mind?