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July 25, 2012

“Deer in the forest caring for their young; the strong, well-clad, well-fed bears; the lively throng of squirrels; the blessed birds, great and small, stirring and sweetening the groves; and the clouds of happy insects filling the sky with [a] joyous hum as part and parcel of the down-pouring sunshine . . . the plant people, and the glad streams singing their way to the sea. . . . When we try to pick out anything by itself we find that it is bound fast by a thousand invisible cords that cannot be broken, to everything in the universe.” [John Muir, Notebook, July 27, 1869]

On that “summer afternoon in the High Sierras, John Muir, the California naturalist wrote {of} an intuition that has been a cornerstone of conservation thinking ever since. . . . Muir realized that each part of nature was dependent on other parts, and that those parts were connected to yet other parts, in a network that, if taken to its logical conclusion, would encompass the whole.

“Interestingly, the same idea seems also to apply to cities. Each citizen is dependent on other citizens, like the species in nature, and those citizens and their interdependencies taken together make the city itself. A city without its millions of connections, formed of the informal one-on-one relationships conducted in the course of daily life, begins to decay. John Donne, the seventeenth-century poet, had the same idea, though in a different context when he wrote: ‘No man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.’”

The above paragraphs are from Mannahatta, A Natural History of New York City, by Eric W. Sanderson, New York 2009, pp 171, 190.

In this book, Sanderson has recreated Manhattan as it looked in 1609 when Henry Hudson first entered New York harbor. The above quotation is from the chapter in which he describes the computational model he has developed to show all the connections within nature – trees, animals, people, streams, hills, soil, etc, which are necessary to describe the whole. And as he indicates, it applies to us today.

Do we not also see the larger picture here as to who we are? It is in these vast networks of relationships among all things, all living things, our earth, our universe, that we see the hand of our God. And as humans, the wonderful mystery is that we can even experience that touch of God within us – in our own relationships to everyone and everything around us. We are not alone. We are part of something grand. We are connected.

Loren Bullock
July 18, 2009

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