By Jessie Kostosky, Program Coordinator for the Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness Programs
We know that we are not alone on Earth. Every day, we interact with others—friends, family, colleagues—but we know there is still more. If we look around and truly feel into our relationships, we can see them expand outward faster than a comet hurtling through the night sky.
When I stop to notice, I see that I include my neighbors in my relationships, but also my non-human pets and the talkative jays that visit outside my window. If I look outside of the two- and four-legged boundary, I see that some important beings in my life are the plants in my garden, as well as the redwood tree across the street. All of this continues to the micro- and macro- levels, where I see that I'm deeply related to the creatures that hold together the soil and work to make it healthier, as well as to the energy and power streaming down to me through the sun's electrons.
Am I in community with these other beings? I think so. Ecology, in a very real way, is community; I find myself already part of a web of interrelationships, spanning from the smallest microscopic creatures to the largest cycles of the planets and stars. On one level, community is not a choice, yet I can become increasingly more aware of it and decide to participate with it at a greater than surface level. I can be not simply aware of those "others," but I can relate to them in different ways. I can get to know them through histories where I find out about their past, or discussions and observation where we mutually probe each other’s inner worlds.
This is the part of being in community that is a choice: It is the decision to go deeper than the mundane and superficial in order to bring the "other" closer to oneself.
In the Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness program, we work to become closer to these so-called "others." We learn about them from varying approaches, and in doing so we learn more about ourselves. By placing ourselves in relation to other entities, our worldview shifts—we are more than the skin encapsulated ego, more than our names and histories. We are as large as our concept of community allows. I think when this happens, when I become a reflection of my understanding of community, an ethical shift occurs—I am now responsible to and for my expanded circle of relations.