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Indra’s Net

Photo: Indra's Net. Copyright Doug Benner

Photo: Indra’s Net. Copyright Doug Benner (Click for larger image)

There’s a beautiful Hindu legend about the god Indra, who commissions an artisan to craft a vast net across the universe.

When the net is complete, at each junction Indra places a shining jewel – the facets of which reflect every other jewel in this cosmic network.

Each jewel represents a single atom, cell or life form in the Universe and all are intimately connected with one another. Any change in one jewel produces a change, however small, in all the others.

The legend also reminds me of a passage from Sinuhe the Egyptian, written by Mika Walthari in 1949:

For I, Sinuhe, am a human being. I have lived in everyone who existed before me and shall live in all who come after me. I shall live in human tears and laughter, in human sorrow and fear, in human goodness and wickedness, in justice and injustice, in weakness and strength. As a human being I shall live eternally in all mankind.

Both of these stories – a 3rd century metaphor and a post-WWII novel – resonate for me in relation to our modern, networked world.

As human beings we are all interconnected. Even a small change in one of us can ripple out through those connections to make changes in others.

Or, as Peter Block said more recently, we can “change the world, one conversation at a time”.

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My thanks to Doug Benner for his kind permission to use the beautiful photograph above.

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Beauty

As Joseph Addison, British poet and statesman, once said several hundred years ago:

There is nothing that makes its way more directly to the soul than beauty.

We can miss seeing true beauty because we are taught to ignore everything but its most superficial face.

Movies, advertisements, TV shows and magazines bombard us with ‘beautiful people’. They try to convince us that only the slimmest, sleekest, glossiest, purest or most perfect specimens can be truly beautiful.

Anything less is simply ordinary. Anything much less is a target for laughter, raised eyebrows and even scorn.

We may not accept these ‘rules’ intellectually. After all, this is simply prejudice, is it not? And of course we aren’t prejudiced, are we?

But the intellect can be a fickle thing, betrayed by gut reactions and fuelled by stereotypes. As many folk who are ‘much less’ than perfect – so ‘much less’ than beautiful – can no doubt attest.

Then sometimes there comes a wonderful watershed moment, a glorious battle cry to challenge our society out of its comfort zone of negative judgements.

One of those moments was when Susan Boyle sang on the TV show Britain’s Got Talent.

To sing is to love and affirm, to fly and soar, to coast into the hearts of the people who listen, to tell them that life is to live, that love is there, that nothing is a promise, but that beauty exists, and must be hunted for and found.

(Joan Baez)