“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.” Chief Seattle.
I was 15 or so when I studied the Welsh poet Waldo Williams in school. It was my first encounter with words that expressed a personal philosophy which I’d grown up with, developed myself and firmly believed was my own; essentially, the belief that everything in this universe is fundamentally connected. Waldo was a pacifist and a conscientious objector during the second World war. Much of his writing is underpinned by this absolute conviction in a web that connects us all, that you, me, he – ‘myfi, tydi, eve’ are each connected, that the actions of each affects the others. As a teen, finding out that someone else has discovered that which you thought your own private madness is an astonishing revelation. It gives permission to feel, it provides context and words to express beliefs and thoughts. For me, it spurred me on to find out more about this concept. In fact, the whole of my life since then has in one way or another been structured by this philosophy, and now, a quarter of a century or so later (yikes!), I find myself delving deeply into the history and current thinking around this concept of ‘the web of life’ once more.
Philosophers, poets and the wise elders of many peoples have spoken eloquently about ‘the web of life’ right throughout history, but more recently, it seems the world of science – particularly biologists, physicists and astrophysicists are embracing the concept and making it their own. From being a once esoteric or spiritual concept, this is now the fundamental basis of new science. I have to admit, that it gives me considerable pleasure in knowing that what was once ancestral truth is now science fact – how many more such discoveries are yet to be made? Science has been moving towards this for a very long time, but perhaps it is during the time of Darwin that the extent of the connectivity across all of the universe’s systems began to be appreciated, and it is only as modern science delves deeper into the building blocks of the universe that the whole beautiful, perfectly interconnected structure of life is revealing itself.
Here are some quotes from tonight’s forage:
“Whenever we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” – John Muir
“A human being is a part of the whole, called by us Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest–a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty.” – Albert Einstein
“An elementary particle is not an independently existing, unanalyzable entity. It is, in essence, a set of relationships that reach outward to the other things.” - H.P Stapp
A few years ago, we ran a joyous retreat entitled The Moonlit Web, it was an exploration and an appreciation of our relationships, our roles and our place within the universal web of life, and I found it bringing me back
full circle, or perhaps back to the very centre of my own silver threaded web.