Far from being a collection of dead and inert objects, the universe is indeed a community, a gathering of subjects. The new universe story from science very much confirms that truth. 

Aaron Mears, director of the Living Classroom Project and owner/educator at the Australian permaculture farm Lulu’s Perch, explores the sacred geometry of the universe to find the patterns that every living being shares. Uploaded to YouTube by Lulu’s Perch

As cosmologist Brian Swimme puts it in The Universe Story,

[Through] this story we learn that we have a common genetic line of development. Every living being of earth is cousin to every other living being. Even beyond the realm of the living we have a common origin in the primordial Flaring Forth of the energies from which the universe in all its aspects is derived. 

In the new cosmology, community is seen to be happening at all levels of existence–including the most minute. 

Water molecules arranged in liquid around a central reference molecule. White areas show the directional organization of water density in the structural “shells” arising from hydrogen bonds; the orange area shows where no water molecules can reside. Photo by IBM Research on Flickr.

Each particle is in some way intimately present to every other particle in the universe…. Hydrogen [was] a new identity that has the power to seal a proton and an electron into a seamless community.

We seek out a deeper remembrance of this “seamless community.”

It follows that humans are all embedded in a living, developing universe, and that we are therefore cousins to everything in the universe. 

If we are cousins, we are already community.

Ecosystems are, as scientist Frijof Capra points out in The Web of Life, “sustainable communities of plants, animals, and microorganisms.” Our own human communities can be reinvented by learning how these more-than-human communities operate successfully in creation.

Physicist, systems theorist and deep ecologist Fritjof Capra delivers an introduction to the systems view of life, which “allows us for the first time to integrate the biological, cognitive, and social dimensions of life.” Uploaded to YouTube by politosystemsdesign.

The principles for living systems that Capra explicates include the following:

InterdependenceAll members of an ecological community are interconnected in a vast and intricate network of relationships, the web of life…. The success of the whole community depends on the success of its individual members, while the success of each member depends on the success of the community as a whole.

Non-linear relationships. The network pattern that characterizes basic patterns of life involves not so much cause and effect relations as multiple feedback loops.

Without Waste.  Cyclical processes of feedback loops lead to recycling. What one species produces as waste, another takes in as food.

..so that the ecosystem as a whole remains without waste. Communities of organisms have evolved in this way over billions of years, continually using and recycling the same molecules of minerals, water, and air.

In contrast, the industrial systems we now operate under are linear and waste becomes endless.

The 12 principles of permaculture. Free download from https://permacultureprinciples.com/.

Solar powered.  Ecosystems run on solar energy. So ought we.

Partnership or pervasive cooperation. Since the first nucleated cells over two billion years ago, life on earth has proceeded through ever more intricate arrangements of cooperation and coevolution. 

Partnership is one of the hallmarks of life.

Diversity. Biodiversity makes a community resilient. Human communities can imitate this resilience through honoring diversity.

Flexibility. Fluctuation is found everywhere in an ecosystem. The web of life is a flexible, ever-functioning network. Adapting to changing circumstances is the key to the dynamic feedback looping that goes on. Paradox and dialectic are key to maintaining a community of any kind. There is stability as well as change, tradition as well as innovation.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells, pp. 82-84.

Banner Image: The mind-boggling biodiversity of the Ecuadoran Amazon, seen from the Sacha Warmi Center for Culture, Nature, and Health, dedicated to “support(ing) indigenous peoples and organizations in the Ecuadorian Amazon with the revitalization and strengthening of their cultural systems, particularly the education and health systems, for the improvement of their current life situation.” Photo by Phila Hoopes

Which of these teachings from science on community strike you as the most useful for understanding and improving on human efforts at community-building?

One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths

Matthew Fox calls on all the world traditions for their wisdom and their inspiration in a work that is far more than a list of theological position papers but a new way to pray—to meditate in a global spiritual context on the wisdom all our traditions share. Fox chooses 18 themes that are foundational to any spirituality and demonstrates how all the world spiritual traditions offer wisdom about each.“Reading One River, Many Wells is like entering the rich silence of a masterfully directed retreat. As you read this text, you reflect, you pray, you embrace Divinity. Truly no words can fully express my respect and awe for this magnificent contribution to contemporary spirituality.” –Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

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2 thoughts on “Science Tells Us about Community”

  1. Avatar
    Patricia Abernethy Suppa

    I guess it’s ok when mom decides not to cooperate with the LIFE growing in her womb. After all it’s only a fetus.
    Then again, our beautiful universe was once just a big bang.

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