One chapter I particularly liked was the one on Giving Way to Passion. It talks of the vibrancy and energy of life, of a universe 'sparking with generative power' - an energy which manifests itself everywhere. I was immediately reminded of Tich Nhat Hanh who says that rather than wishing people a happy birthday we should wish them a happy manifestation day. He uses the images of the sea and the waves to show that any sense of us being isolated, independent individuals is an illusion. The wave is not separate from the sea and the sea is not separate from the wave. They are interrelated or as Thich Nhat Hanh would say, 'they interbe'. They are of the same essence and in their essence they are one. Hinduism has a similar idea. In the Vedas there is a story of a young man, Svetakatu, who after years of study still doesn't know the meaning of life. His father tells him to fill a cup with water and put some salt in it. His father then asks for the salt but of course he cannot bring it because it has disolved in the water. When he tries to drink from one side of the cup and then the other all he can taste is salt and cannot separate the salt and the water. Just as the water and salt are now one so we are one with that which is the essence of life, the Supreme Reality, however we may understand that. 'You are That', Svetaketu, is one of the great sayings of the Upanishads - profound in its insight and today confirmed by science.
I like these images and often find them more helpful than philosophical or psychological explanations. I like too the idea that the life force that is within each of us has evolved from the first division of cells that began the whole adventure of evolution. For me it's as though God has called each one of us from that first moment of life, called us into life through the centuries and generations to take form, to become manifest at this point in history. Our individual manifestations are unique and we have something to offer the world and our present generation that no other person has. There is not another me or another you.
Christianity is strong on this. I have heard it preached over and over how much we are called into being by God, how precious we are in God's eyes, how even the hairs on our head are counted. I have come to realise the dignity of being made in the image and likeness of God, of being loved as an individual in the depths of my being. And all this I believe to be true. But I have come to understand all of this in a new way. In my uniqueness I carry within me the DNA of past generations. I probably display characteristics from ancestors long forgotten. I am bound by a whole range of relationships which have influenced me and formed me. I am part of a great community that reaches far into the past and will reach into the future. In my uniqueness I am not alone or independent. I am a unique manifestation of something greater than myself and in this I am one with all human beings, good and bad alike.
As manifestations of life we are a gift to the world. But what kind of gift will we be - will we take humanity further on its journey towards unity and wholeness or will we hold it back by our ambition, competition, power seeking, selfishness? Will we live at the surface level of the ego, what the Zanders call the calculating self, that seeks to dominate and get its own way through all kinds of manipulations that contribute to division and separateness, to hostility and enmity? This is a self that takes us on a downward spiral. Or shall we live from this deeper self, what the Zanders call the central self, that seeks to recognise all as our brothers and sisters, that inclines to unity as well as love and compassion and opens us up to possibilities for a new life and a new world?