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A Sea of Ones

June 1, 2012
All differences in this world are of degree, and not of kind, because oneness is the secret of everything.
~ Swami Vivekanada

Go on, say the word out loud.  Whisper it if it makes you feel better: Oneness.

Did you shudder?  Did your stomach turn over and give you a vague sense of queasiness?  Were you forcibly reminded of the various cults whose members followed their charismatic leaders to untimely deaths? Did you suddenly get a vision of new age self-help gurus descending on you while waving copies of their books and tapes for you to purchase like a hoard of invading Visigoths?

It is strange; the very concept of merging one’s identity with another person or group has become an anathema to humanity.  We fight it tooth and nail and create stories and legends which we turn into books and movies to remind us just how frightening of a concept it is.  Hollywood is full of them.  They make for excellent science fiction and horror thrillers.

What’s really strange is while we hold up individuality as the end all be all of existence, we only live that way in our spare time.  When it comes to work, any business person will tell you that the collective or hive mindset is far more profitable to a company than having each employee thinking (and acting) for themselves.

But overall as a society we are obsessed with individualism; with the belief that the interests of the individual are ethically paramount and that we are better off acting in our own self interest than in considering the needs of humanity as a whole.  And this belief tends to spill over into the way that we view others and their place in the world.

Whether it is our employees or our significant others, our friends or our acquaintances, the result is the same, most of us are focused on ourselves and on how those around us can make our lives better.  How can you increase my quarterly earnings?  How can you make my life more interesting?  What can you do for me?

It is this attitude that will be our undoing.

Oh yes, I know, individualism is the cornerstone of capitalism.  Every marketing executive and advertising specialist on the planet knows that appealing to one’s individuality and uniqueness sells products and creates a desire for more things that will set you apart from the crowd and mark you as one of a kind.  But when it comes right down to it, it’s not a very cohesive way to live.

When applied to countries as a whole, the attitudes and beliefs embraced by individualism become nationalism (the belief that nations are better off acting in their own self interest than collectively and with international or global goals and/or ideals) with each country promoting its own self interests regardless of what it means for those around them.

While both individualism and nationalism may seem like logical choices on the surface, the fact is that we do not live in a bubble, either as people or as nations. What we do impacts those around us and the impact we have on them in turn rebounds on us.  There is a reason for this, though most people don’t like to think about it.  It is because we are all connected.  We are all one.

No, I’m not talking about some sort of all-inclusive mish-mash of thought and belief and personality where everyone gives up who they are in order to pursue some sort of hive mentality.  I’m talking about the kind of oneness you get when you have billions of drops of water coming together to form an ocean; an ocean where millions of cresting waves carve themselves out of the oneness that binds them all together and gives them their coherence and purpose.

Each wave, each drop of water is individual and unique.  Each drop of water contains a universe unto itself.  Each wave is formed just a bit differently than each of its brothers, and yet they share an underlying cohesion; a sense of unity and of oneness that create the concept of an ocean; that endless sea of possibilities and potential; a world where you can become one without having to give up yourself; where you can stand on your own but where you never have to stand alone.

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