Compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things.

Thomas Merton

The trajectory of mankind’s development has been a consistent expansion of connections with others—from clans and tribes to the global community in which we now interact. The innovations created by human ingenuity throughout the millennia have facilitated nature’s purpose—that all of the peoples of the world are connected together and live in alignment with her laws in peace and harmony. It is to become like nature.

The societies we have built are complex, scientifically advanced and totally interdependent. The fact is that we cannot survive, individually or collectively, without each other. My second-grade granddaughter called me and said with excitement, “Grandma, guess what I learned in school today! It takes forty-five people to make a pencil!” It takes all of us.

Nothing happens in a vacuum. Every intention and action impacts the entire global system. A financial downturn in one nation rattles the economic sector, one violent episode in one city influences an eruption of global protest, election results in one country can shift the arc of international relations.

The law of interdependence exists in our bodies, in our psyches, in our thoughts and emotions.  There are some practical ways to think about this law and how to use the fact of our interdependence for our benefit as a society. This interesting site that lays it out in simple formulas.

Competitive self-interest is the realm where ego rules. Human society has grown to the epitome of egoism in its most horrible form. Society is operating in a dangerous stage of the development [link #2] of the forces of reception and bestowal—giving in order to receive. We have not yet developed into altruistic intention. The forces opposite to positive and correct human values prevail. We have come to the end of our efforts to bend nature to our will, and Nature has declared: Stop!

It’s been shown that coronavirus, along with multiple bacteria, fungi and other viruses, are intimate entities within the interdependent system of Nature. The power that COVID-19 has in bringing us to our knees and dismantling everything that we know demonstrates this, as does the economic and social impact of quarantine and social distancing. Interdependence is local and global and is a key element that has to be understood as we pick ourselves up and re-create our future lives.

When we understand the vast implications of this law, our inner way of being takes on a sense of compassion for others. We realize the degree to which we influence others and the world positively or negatively by our intentions and actions. We begin to think about whether or not the actions we contemplate in order to fulfill our every desire harm others or whether they in some way serve the common good. Ultimately, which actions do we choose and which actions do we reject?

Religions share a common instruction: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This principle requires compassion, inner scrutiny, and intention not to do to anyone else what we don’t want done to us. It recognizes our dependence on each other for our very survival. It is the living out of the integral and deterministic law of interdependence.