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Indigenous traditions around the globe know the self as one with its world. Nature is alive and seamlessly whole, often symbolized by a circle: the sacred hoop of life. Not only our fate, but also our identity is interwoven with all beings.

The fifteenth century cardinal Nicholas of Cusa defined God as an infinite circle whose periphery is nowhere and whose center is everywhere. That center, that one self, is in you and me and the tree outside the door. Similarly, the Jeweled Net of Indra, the vision of reality that arose with Hua Yen Buddhism, reveals a world where each being, each gem at each node of the net, is illumined by all the others and reflected in them. As part of this world, you contain the whole of it.

We don’t have to surrender our individuality to experience the world as an extended self and its story as our own extended story. The liver, leg, and lung that are ‘mine’ are highly distinct from each other, thank goodness, and each has a distinctive role to play. The larger ‘selfness’ we discover today is not an undifferentiated unity. As in all living systems, intelligence depends on the integrative play of diversity. Diversity is a source of resilience. This is good news because this time of great challenge demands more commitment, endurance and courage than any one of us can dredge up out of our own individual supply. We can learn to draw on the other neurons in the neural net and view them with gratitude. The acts and intentions of others are like seeds that can germinate and bear fruit through our own lives, as we take them in and dedicate that awareness to the healing of our world.

…we come home to our mutual belonging. We return to the experience that we are both the self of our world and its cherished lover. We are not doomed to destroy it by the cravings of the separate ego and the technologies it fashioned. We can wake up to who we really are, allow the rivers to flow clean once more, and the trees to grow green along their banks.

—Joanna Macy
World as Lover, World as Self. Courage for Global Justice and Ecological Renewal