I recently read a quote that really resonated with me:
“The welfare of any segment of humanity is inextricably bound up with the welfare of the whole. Humanity’s collective life suffers when any one group thinks of its own well-being in isolation from that of its neighbours’ or pursues economic gain without regard for how the natural environment, which provides sustenance for all, is affected.”
We all have heard at some point about global interconnectedness, symbolised best, in my opinion, by the Butterfly Effect. But the reality of interconnectedness is present in so many ways in our day-to-day life that I couldn’t help but wonder if understanding interconnectedness within, say, the reality of an apartment building, a family, or our own bodies, could help me understand it better within the reality of the entire planet.
On a Small Scale: An Apartment Building
I lived in a few apartment buildings in my lifetime, and I couldn’t help but think of how true this is within the small contest of an apartment building. One of the building I lived in was non-smoking, which is why a couple of our neighbours had picked it; one of them in particular had some pretty significant lung issues. Unfortunately, it so happens that someone else in the building didn’t respect the no-smoking rule, and smoke would regularly float around in the building’s air ducts and into other people’s units.
Interesting, how one person’s choice—to smoke in a non-smoking building—affected so many others, with some consequences—increased frequency of hospital visits—having very broad consequences (increased healthcare costs for the entire province).
In this case, then, the welfare of those living in any one apartment is bound with the welfare of those living in all the other apartments in the building. If those living in one apartment don’t think about the consequences of their actions—playing loud music, smoking when it’s not allowed, talking loudly in the hallways, cooking dishes that are very smelly, etc—then how can anyone in that building live well?
On a Smaller Scale: The Family Unit
Similarly, I couldn’t help but think of how true this is even in the microcosm of the family unit. How often the actions of one sibling affect the other the other ones? How often does something a parent say affect the lives of their children for years and years to come? Sometimes even a look or a hint can completely build up or destroy a family member. An aunt calling a niece bossy; a young girl calling her cousin unpretty; an uncle telling a nephew that their contribution to a conversation wasn’t worthwhile…
Then again, on the positive side, how often do the efforts of one person in the family to contribute to making the world a better place encouraged everyone else in the family unit to do the same? How many children have, by their inquisitive looks into the world around them, brought wonder back into the fold? How many parents, but the strength of their example, been able to inspire their children to behave in a manner becoming a noble being at a very young age?
In this case, then, the welfare of each parent and of each child is bound to the welfare of the other members of the family unit. It places the onus of everyone’s happiness on each member of the family, and implies some pretty big changes in the way parents approach their responsibilities towards each other, their children, and the family unit.
On an even Smaller Scale: The Human Body
On an even smaller scale, I couldn’t help but think of how obviously true this is on the level of the human body. I remember how, a couple of years ago, a badly twisted ankle caused me knee, hip, back, and even shoulder pain, as three months of hobbling around had shifted my entire body’s balance.
The welfare of any part of the body is so obviously bound up with the welfare of all the other parts of the body that I doubt many would contradict this. In a ridiculous imaging exercise, if one organ decides one day to only take care of itself, the entire body would eventually break down—including the selfish organ.
I strongly feel that, now more than ever, our interconnectedness—that of every single human being on this planet—is something we need to understand. It is difficult, oftentimes, to understand this, seeing how removed we usually are from the consequences other might feel. But every decision we make has consequences that reach much farther than we can ever imagine. Be it what we buy, in what we invest, where we choose to live, where and how we choose to travel, all these decisions have repercussions that we can trace back, for the most part—but volition and perseverance are required. I do think, though, that an increasing number of people are starting to ask these questions and trying to act in ways the repercussions of which are increasingly limited. I am filled with hope, as I can see evidences of this around me growing, sometimes on a daily basis—and I hope that either you are already a part of it, or will choose to become a part of it.