Tuesday, July 6, 2021


St Pete Beach, 1/12/19
CC Jean Stimmell

This column marks the end of an era in my life that began 28 years ago when I quit stone masonry to get my Master's Degree in counseling psychology. As of the first of this month, I have chosen to retire as a therapist by letting my license expire.

In another milestone, Coco, our plott hound, who had been in-home hospice care, was put to sleep on June 21st. She was laying on the rug, unable to get up when the vet arrived but was able to wag her tail at, who had become her new friend. The vet gave her that final shot while Coco munched on dog treats out of my hand and then dozed off peacefully to join Socrates and Buddha chasing rabbits in another realm.

All of this is a long-winded way of announcing that my byline will be shrinking. This week also brings to a close a recent series of columns, showing how we are interrelated at every level: from biology, psychology, society, ecology, to quantum mechanics.

Our connectedness is something we have most often taken for granted. That's why it is so troubling today how many of us have skidded off the tracks, rejecting our inter-relatedness to celebrate macho individualism and unfettered freedom.

It seems to me to be an adolescent kind of thing. I sure felt that way growing up, craving the freedom to do whatever I wanted. I was wilder and crazier than most. But I internalized the interlocking nature of rights and responsibilities fighting in Vietnam, raising a family, and just growing older.

I wonder what kind of parents could justify pursuing their right to freedom if it was detrimental to their family rather than working together for the common good. Looking outward, local, state, and national governments are extensions of the family, instituted provide essential services and establish common rules so we can all get along together. 

Covid-19 points up the fact that in some areas, our responsibilities are international. As Covid ceaselessly mutates into deadlier variants, none of us will be safe until the whole world is vaccinated. The same goes for nuclear weapons and climate change: the only solutions are global.

But I don't hear much about the common good today. Instead, we are paralyzed at every level of government by a consuming fear of the Other, magnified by social media, dark money, and unscrupulous politicians. What's it going to take to lure us out of our bunkers of identity-based grievances to see the big picture: To marvel and take comfort in what both religion and science are telling us – that we are not separate but one.

To scientists, it is indisputable that we are utterly interconnected. The theoretical physicist, Carlo Rovelli, boils down quantum mechanics to its core that everything in nature is relational: "a photon, a cat, a stone, a clock, a tree, a boy, a village, a rainbow, a planet, a cluster of galaxies . . . These do not exist in splendid isolation. On the contrary, they do nothing but continuously act upon each other."⁠1 Roveii readily admits the parallels with Buddhism. Over the years, the Dalai Lama has returned the favor by touting the scientific method as our mightiest tool in the pursuit of the truth.⁠2

The bedrock of Buddhism is well-stated by the scholar Christina Feldman: "The process of dependent origina­tion is sometimes said to be the heart or the essence of all Buddhist teaching…[which says that] everything is interconnected—that there is nothing separate, nothing standing alone. Everything effects everything else. We are part of this sys­tem."⁠3 

She goes on to say something with which Rovelli would agree. It is a message that freedom-loving patriots today need to take to heart: Freedom is not found by trying to bypass our inter-relatedness:

 "It is not a question of transcending this process to find some other dimension; freedom is found in this very process of which we are a part. And part of that process of understanding what it means to be free depends on understanding inter-con­nectedness, and using this very process, this very grist of our life, for awaken­ing."⁠4

Let us hope we all wake up before it is too late.



1 Rovelli, Carlo. Helgoland (pp. 74-75). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition

2 https://www.brainpickings.org/2018/10/16/dalai-lama-science-spirituality-destructive-emotions/

3 https://www.buddhistinquiry.org/article/dependent-origination/

4 Ibid

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