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.
I’m sure it’s a cop-out to say that in the end, there’s no real conflict between self-reliance and community, between thinking for yourself and living for others, between looking inside and seeing outside.
The effort to direct life energy at goals unworthy of our knowledge is exhausting. Eventually, our reservoirs of health and luck depleted, we enter a state of crisis. This is a special state, the threshold between worlds. Many of us are there right now, individually; the collective human body is approaching it as well. The purpose of this essay is to describe a paradigm of mutual care that can carry us across the threshold between worlds.