Martis Lake is a small lake located just east of Truckee, not far from the Northstar resort. Local fishermen will tell you that there are very large trout swimming in that very small lake, but the lake has a serious problem. Fertilizers used on the Northstar golf course wash into Martis Creek which carries them to the lake where they provide nutrients for invasive weeds. The rapid weed growth makes the lake unfishable, unboatable and just a plain mess for most of the summer. Yes, it is just a small lake far from here, but its fate illustrates that we ignore our connectedness at our own peril. As the popular bumper proclaims, we all live downstream

Gene Nelson column

Gene Nelson 

Which naturally leads me to, what else, quantum physics. Actually, physics and chemistry are two of the reasons why I became a history major and then a minister.  But as this history major understands it, according to quantum theory, when a sub-atomic particle decays into two particles, they become a set of “twins,” spinning together in the same direction. So far so good. But now imagine those two particles flying apart — one heading to the far side of the moon, the other lingering in the lab spinning above the physicist’s head.  If that scientist could reach up and reverse the spin of the particle above his/her head, the other particle — its twin on the far side of the moon — would reverse itself also. The two particles exist in what physicist Erwin Schrodinger calls “quantum entanglement.” No matter how far apart they are, the particles remain connected, behaving, not as two separate particles, but as one … always one. 

Reflecting on all this, theologian and author Barbara Brown Taylor writes, “The new science requires a radical change in how we conceive the world. It is no longer possible to see it as a collection of autonomous parts …The deeper revelation is one of undivided wholeness, the whole cosmos knit together. The common division of the world into subject and object, inner world and outer world, body and soul, is no longer adequate.” 

The whole cosmos knit together. When Asian American women are attacked in New York, we are all attacked; when Mexican children are mistreated on the border, we are all mistreated; when school girls are slaughtered in Afghanistan, a bit of each of us dies. That’s just the way it is, your life and my life flowing into each other as wave flows into wave. Call it quantum entanglement. Call it the will of God. Like it or not, we are all connected. We all live downstream.

Columnist David Brooks recently lamented our country’s “pathetic” response to the COVID pandemic. He wrote that, when interviewed, people who refuse to wear masks, to social distance or refuse to be vaccinated, tend to speak in terms of me and my rights. Says Brooks, “They are thinking about what’s right for them as individuals more than what’s right for the nation and the most vulnerable people in it. It’s not that they are rebuking their responsibilities as citizens; it apparently never occurs to them that they might have any. When asked to think in broader terms, they seem surprised and off balance.” 

What a difference it might have made, indeed could still make, not only in terms of the pandemic, but also in our life together, if we could let go of our anger, fear, self-centeredness and distrust and instead embrace a wider vision — a vision of reality as undivided wholeness, of  a cosmos knit together by an infinite web of relationships, flung across the vastness of space like a luminous net. Says one colleague, “For a moment we’ve seen through a glass darkly. We live in the illusion that we are all separate. But when the fog finally clears, we shall know there is only One.”   

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