When connections are found between two seemingly unconnected parts of our lives, those moments, strange coincidences, are when I truly see God and believe in a universal connectedness. As a philosophical panentheist, I believe God is unknown and uncontained by the material world we live in, but interacts with the material, because all that is in the material world is God, albeit separated from the whole. As all things are made from God and contain a divine spark of God within them, there is an inherent longing toward connection. That feeling is purely God working to reconnect and make whole what has been separated. We live, we love, we learn, and we die. Just as our material body returns to the material realm and reintegrates itself, or at least would if we didn’t embalm or mummify the dead, the divine spark of God within us returns to the spiritual realm outside the sphere of nondivinity and separateness to become reconnected with God.
When I see coincidences as defined above this belief is reinforced. For example, when I took college courses on different subjects and all the classes actually worked to strengthen each other. I shouldn’t have found such similarity, but there it was. It feels like there is some divine plan in these instances, perhaps even providing a feeling of predestination or prodding toward a specific outcome has occurred. That feeling is due to the interconnectedness of all things that truly exists, but is not apparent. There isn’t a predestined plan, only many options and opportunities for people to see that interconnectedness, yet many in their lifetimes will not. It cannot be something shown to them by another, it must be experienced for themselves. We see this in all aspects of life. For example, parents trying to persuade their children to not go down the same path or make the same mistakes they had made as children, but the children often must find out those mistakes for themselves. They cannot be vicariously made and still have the same strength upon one’s character.
Sometimes these opportunities recur over and over without our notice, and when we finally notice them only slightly we get that feeling of déjà vu. We’ve done this before, because we have. Life is cyclical, but constantly changing, as we adjust our orientation to it. We have positive and negative (not bad or evil, just more base) inclinations that lie upon a continuum. Imagine placing a fulcrum in the middle of that continuum plank. We may teeter totter evenly, maintaining a balance between those inclinations. Or we place it closer to one end or the other. When we do not have balance we are less likely to see the connections, as we become more focused on particulars rather than the whole.
When we are positively inclined toward knowing God, spiritual building, learning and understanding, we will neglect others and ourself if the focus becomes too particular, too central. Likewise, if we are negatively inclined and become more self-focused, we overindulge in gratification, losing sight of God. It is the Balance between the spirit-focused and material-focused inclinations where we find the interconnection-focused and those feelings toward the awareness of the other, charity, empathy, and love. Maintaining moderation between these two foci, keeping the balance, finding homeostasis, is what is most important and probably the hardest thing.
It’s easy to move to one extreme or the other. There are rules and expectations. We understand the boundaries. This is all too human. Our brains seek out shortcuts (heuristics) to make easy choices and not waste important cognitive resources, but often these can be less than ideal. Such heuristics include stereotyping, generalization, and dehumanization at times. Our brains are designed to categorize. It’s an evolutionary adaptive mechanism. If we couldn’t quickly identify something as safe or unsafe, we’d be dead. This need for identification of things inevitably leads to our own identity building, as we separate things into “us/not us” categories. The stronger our identities and distinctions between the other, the less likely we will see the interconnectedness between us all. This is why the Buddha said it is important to let go of the self, our identity, and how enlightenment can only come when we have done so. That enlightenment truly is that perfect balance on the fulcrum of the continuum of our inclinations where we find God the whole in the interconnectedness of all things within this material sphere.
Because the material world is cyclical, providing us every opportunity to see the truth of the interconnectedness within the material world and the existence of the divine spark within ourselves, history has given us exemplars by which we should strive to be like. We find them in religion, cultural movements, and in our everyday lives. They show us how to act selflessly, putting others first with a heart full of love. That is a repercussion of feeling and seeing that interconnectedness. That is the truth behind the statement made by many of these examples, distilled in a single maxim, “love thy neighbor as yourself.” There is one God and we all have within us a piece of divinity, a divine spark, which yearns to return to the whole. We only need to listen, and as we do, our love for the other will increase, because we will see that interconnectedness and that we truly are all one.