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The Importance of Community

The most primitive organism on this planet is the prokaryote.

Now, this prokaryote might be described as little more than a cell membrane surrounding a droplet of cytoplasm. I mean, you might think of it as something of microscopic goo balloon.

And yet this prokaryote (this most primate organism on the planet, you understand) eats, digests, breathes, excretes and even exhibits something of a neurological processing. It senses where food exists, and it slimes its way to the feast. It recognizes toxins and predators and slimes its way the other direction.

Said another way, our prokaryote displays something of an intelligence. Perhaps it can be said that that cells are smart.

And from that moment - say some 750 million years ago - that the earliest smart cells hooked up, they have formed ever more sophisticated communities (if you will), increasing their awareness of environment exponentially, subdividing the workload with more precision and effectiveness than the organizational charts of Google, and allowing many more to live on much less.

And these smart cells learn from experience - creating cellular memories, or genes, and passing these genes to their offspring. And not only are these genes shared among members of the same species, but they are shared among members of different species.

This sharing of learned information is no accident. If genes are the physical memories of an organism’s learned experiences, then this exchange of genes is a sharing of memories designed to enhance the survival of the biosphere; designed to enhance all life on the planet. Yes, the Beatles may have had it right all along. We really do “get by with a little help from our friends.”

In this understanding, organisms can no longer be seen as disconnected; there are no walls between species. When we genetically alter a tomato, we potentially alter the entire biosphere in ways that we cannot foresee. And scientists are acknowledging this invaluable role of cooperation in sustaining life in the biosphere in a newer field of study called Systems Biology.

It was the French biologist Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck who presented a theory of evolution based upon such an instructive, cooperative interaction among organisms and their environment 50 years before Darwin’s work.

And while his theory of an evolution driven by community and cooperation was largely displaced by Darwin’s theory of an evolution driven by competition and struggle, newer biology would suggest that the overlooked Lamarck was not entirely wrong and the celebrated Darwin was not entirely right.

It was today’s Dr. Bruce Lipton wrote, and I quote, that, “If we fail to apply the lessons of our shared genetic destiny, which should be teaching us the importance of cooperation among all species, we threaten human existence. We need to move beyond Darwinian Theory, which stresses the importance of individuals, to one that stresses the importance of community,” that this belief in an evolution driven by survival of the fittest is incorrect and destructive – a primary cause of the problems that we face today.

James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis says the same thing in different words: that the earth and all of its species are one, interactive, living organism, that the biosphere is a tightly integrated, holistic harmonizing community, and that tampering with the balance of this superorganism (or Gaia) threatens its very survival.

Unity’s own Myrtle Fillmore wrote it this way, “God is the one perfect life flowing through us. God is the one pure substance out of which our organism is formed. God is the power that gives us motive power; the strength that holds us upright and allows us to exercise our limbs; the wisdom that gives us intelligence in every cell of our organism, every thought of our minds. God is the only reality of us; all else is but a shadow.”

Ernest Holmes, of Religious Science spoke to this same idea, and I paraphrase, that the infinite cannot oppose the infinite; that, in effect, God cannot oppose God. And this doesn’t mean that humanity can’t make unenlightened decisions. This simply means that humanity’s unenlightened decisions will ultimately be balanced in ways which may or may not support our collective addiction to pleasure.

I would say that there is one thing happening here and it’s the Life we call God. And that each of us is an emanation of that one Life. And so it is that we honor God to the degree that we honor life – affirming its noble worth, celebrating its infinite potential and supporting its inherent right to be; and that we dishonor God to the degree that we dishonor life – denying its worth, discounting its potential and disregarding its right to be. Said in different words, I would echo the words of the writer of the latter gospel in suggesting that to love God is to love life.

To love God is to love each other.

So for our purposes today, while you might be tempted to think of yourself as an individual, I would suggest that you are better described as a cooperative community of some 50 trillion single-celled citizens, a cooperative of individual organisms which have evolved a strategy for their mutual survival; that from that moment that those earliest smart cells hooked up, the endless advantages of living in community led to organizations of millions, billions and even trillions of socially interactive smart cells culminating with you, sitting right here, listening to this lesson.

You, in a sense, stand at the leading edge of life’s experiencing of itself. It calls to mind images of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio on the bow of the Titanic. May our ending be kinder.

So, in any exploration of the three perineal questions, “Where did I come from?” “Why am I here?” and, “How do I make the best of it?” the suggestion of today is that we awaken from a perspective of Darwin which might have us answer with words such as, “I am a product of random chemistry, here with no real purpose so I’d better start competing,” to a perspective of that most primitive organism on the planet which might have us answer with words such as, “I am Life’s longing for itself, here to bring harmony and balance to my family of being, so I’d better start cooperating.”

I wrote the following in 2016.

I’ve often thought of Unity in Lynnwood as a microcosm of the macrocosm; as a really beautiful example of what’s possible for humanity on the larger stage.

Certainly, it might be easier to have a room full of those whose orientations conform to your familiarity, and it might be easier to have a room full of those whose religions conform to your dogma, and it might be easier to have a room full of those whose ethnicities conform to your comfort, and yes, it might be easier to have a room full of those whose politics conform to your sensibilities, but you know, that which might be easy for the ego isn’t that which is good for the soul.

For it’s not in a room full of those whose orientations conform to your familiarity that you learn about the power of love. And it’s not in a room full of those whose religions conform to your dogma that you learn about the breadth of truth. It’s not in a room full of those whose ethnicities conform to your comfort that you learn about the power of diversity and it’s certainly not in a room full of those whose politics conform to your sensibilities that you learn about the potentials of cooperation.

Yes, I’ve often thought of Unity in Lynnwood as a microcosm of the macrocosm; as a really beautiful example of what’s possible for humanity on the larger stage. For this room has some for whom the past election is a source of celebration. And this room has some for whom the past election is a source of sorrow. Some for whom the event gives rise to a new hope. Some for whom the event gives rise to a new fear.

But in the end, we’re all in this room together, seeking to elevate our discourse above the destructiveness of winners and losers into the sweeter realms of an authentic community marked by shared perspective, deep listening, intentional understanding and warm embrace.

And so it is that I would offer this moment in history, not as an easy moment, but as a moment rich with the capacity to grow the very soul of an American nation, if we can but accept its invitation.

It’s an invitation to step hand-in-hand across the self-imposed boundaries of orientation and religion and ethnicity, and to reveal a new world in which we refuse to define each other by the individual paths we walk alone, but by the collective mountain we climb together.

And yes, it’s an invitation to step hand-in-hand across the self-imposed boundaries of politics, to reveal a new world in which our differences elevate all of us through a coming together, instead of diminishing each of us through a coming apart.

In the words of Unity’s Mr. Fillmore, everything in life happens from center to circumference. And if there be truth in this (and I believe there is), then let us stop looking to what’s happening out there in Washington D. C. as the source of what’s possible for Lynnwood, Washington. And let us start looking to what’s happening right here in Lynnwood, Washington as the source of what’s possible for Washington D. C.

It was last week that Unity in Lynnwood posted to social media, and I quote: Remember oneness. Awaken compassion. Speak possibility. Practice love. Embrace diversity. Honor life.

The work continues.


I’d like to conclude with these words from Dr. Maya Angelou:

My wish for you is that you continue

Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness

Continue to allow humor to lighten the burden of your tender heart

Continue in a society dark with cruelty to let the people hear the grandeur of God in the peals of your laughter

Continue to let your eloquence elevate the people to heights they had only imagined

Continue to remind the people that each is as good as the other and that no one is beneath nor above you

Continue to remember your own young years and look with favor upon the lost and the least and the lonely

Continue to put the mantel of your protection around the bodies of the young and defenseless

Continue to take the hand of the despised and diseased and walk proudly with them in the high street.

Continue to plant a public kiss of concern on the cheek of the sick and the aged and infirm and count that as a natural action to be expected

Continue to let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to way your nightly prayer and let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good

Continue to ignore no vision which comes to enlarge your range and increase your spirit

Continue to dare to love deeply and risk everything for the good thing

Continue to float happily in the sea of infinite substance which set aside riches for you before you had a name

Continue - and by doing so you and your work will be able to continue eternally

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