March 2010

The Worlds We Live In

One of my best friends in the entire solar system died to this world a couple of weeks ago, and I am among the countless people who miss him greatly. I wrote “solar system” because words like “Ontario” or “Canada” or even “Planet Earth” somehow aren’t inclusive enough.

I am finding it too limiting to think in terms of personal realms of existence as categories for relationships, and this was vividly demonstrated at his Visitation and Funeral a few days later. People there connected to him in so many different ways and were in many cases meeting each other for the first time. He lived in “worlds” such as his local and non-local Faith communities, numerous volunteer activities, his and/or his wife’s family both local and out-of-town, recent classmates as an adult learner, former schoolmates, recent professional colleagues, co-workers from the past, neighbors and probably more. At his funeral these worlds came together. While many knew each other already, and some were part of more than one of his worlds, most folks greeted strangers with “how did you know Andy?” In doing so they were figuring out what category (world) to put people in and also, at the same time, opening their own self to intersecting with others. Rather than a collision or worlds we had a merging of worlds.

The Baha’i Writings emphasize that our physical world mirrors the spiritual world. Reflecting on this, I find several streams of thought, each inspired by this recent experience.

I wonder about there being not only an “afterlife” but also multiple worlds. The Writings do indicate that this is the case, in the sense that we continue to grow and develop as we progress through the spiritual worlds of the Infinite. It is interesting to wonder about how the worlds might intersect and even influence each other. Many people believe, and science has been investigating, the impact that prayer and a devotional attitude can have on sickness. So why shouldn’t it work the other way, with actions and prayers in this world benefitting souls in the next?

I am also thinking about parallels in the physical, time- and geography-bound world we live in. For example, while traveling our personal worlds can either be challenged, as in a collision, or expanded, as in a merging. And if we allow ourselves to be touched by new acquaintances and novel experiences then our inner and outer worlds would be enriched.

Considering the large number and diversity of people connected to Andy, I also am thinking about the “6 degrees of separation” concept, which is the idea that if you choose any two people anywhere on the planet then no more than 5 people would be between them in acquaintance. Frankly I wouldn’t be surprised if in our seemingly shrinking world the number 6 is more like 4 or 5.

And now returning to my own worlds — known or unknown, intentional or sub-conscious — I am thankful to be part of this world for now and hoping for more mergers than collisions.


© Jaellayna Palmer 2010