What is it like to be a rhino? To be a policeman? A corporate executive, a terrorist, a killer? What is it like to be a river? These questions arise naturally in the story that Thich Nhat Hanh named interbeing, that holds us as interdependent on every level, even that of basic existence. It is the successor to the story of the separate self, and it opens us to compassion and grief alike.
By the time some readers see these words, Valentines Day will have become a distant memory. Nevertheless, the entire month of February has been designated American heart month, and for twenty-eight days we have permission to pay attention to the human organ, the heart, yet throughout the entire year, we have little or no permission to pay attention to the psycho-spiritual “organ” we call “the heart.” During the month of February, however, it is acceptable to think about the physical organ by focusing on heart disease and to cautiously entertain the psycho-spiritual organ on Valentines Day by way of eating chocolate, having sex, and sending flowers.
Usually at year’s end, we’re supposed to look back at events just passed — and forward, in prediction mode, to the year to come. But just look around you! This moment is so extraordinary that it has hardly registered. People in thousands of communities across the United States and elsewhere are living in public, experimenting with direct democracy, calling things by their true names, and obliging the media and politicians to do the same.