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Individualism and Community

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Photo by zoosnow from Pexels

No Woman or Man is an Island 

We thrive in community and connection. I feel that many of us understand this at a deeper level after the isolation and inward focus that we have been through in the last year and a half. We now truly realise the importance of connection, with each other and with Nature herself. 

Microcosm and Macrocosm

To fully realise our interconnectedness with each other and with the whole universe, it is helpful to look at the concept of microcosm and macrocosm. This is a Greek philosophical theory that puts forward the idea of the human being, being an expression of the whole universe in a smaller form. Similar theories have been developed by many other philosophical and religious traditions. The central tenet of yoga philosophy (which might very well predate the Greek theory we are more familiar with) is the view that our individual consciousness (the self; or atman) is part of Universal Consciousness (the Self; or brahman). This is the essence of interconnection, we are all one Consciousness, made up of our individual consciousnesses. 

Synthesis of Left and Right 

If we view ourselves as interconnected, we have a much-needed opportunity to experience our lives quite differently. This way of viewing the world solves the increasingly outdated, right-wing vs left-wing debate about which is better: Individualism or Collectivism. Really the answer is both. Interconnectivity provides a way that we can be individuals, whilst at the same time being aware that we are part of a whole and it will help us as individuals to work for the benefit of the whole. 

From Hierarchical Oppression…

What has hindered the synthesis of the best parts of Individualism and Collectivism is the fact that we only seem to be given a choice between one or the other. This is due to the top-down, hierarchical nature of our political systems, institutions and society as a whole. Another name for this is systemic oppression. It suits the people at the top of the hierarchy to keep things as they are. However, it doesn’t suit the majority of the population or the health of the planet, at all.

…. To Networked Systems

Turning away from hierarchical systems and towards a networked systems approach solves many of the problems we face. When a system is networked it can respond more quickly, flexibly and appropriately than a hierarchical system. Networks systems can be created to be “bottom-up” systems as opposed to “top-down” hierarchy. This means networked systems can act differently in different parts of the system according to what is needed locally; whilst still being informed by, and contributing to, the whole.

Nature as a Networked System

This is how ecosystems behave, it’s how Nature organises itself. If you’re interested in how then have a look at this TED talk by ecologist Suzanne Simard who discovered how trees talk to each other over vast distances through the mycelium network, she is the scientist who coined the term Wood Wide Web. This lovely talk explains the scientific proof of how trees are truly interconnected, and they communicate, collaborate and share resources. Given the right conditions, humans are highly capable of doing the same on a worldwide scale.

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