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That which we share (09/14/2008)
By Janet Lewis Burns
“We are all connected in an inescapable web of mutuality.” - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

We both glared disapprovingly at the young mother as we came together in the toy aisle, two strangers scowling and shaking our heads in disgust. A boy of about four was bawling, red-faced and jerked along by a frazzled adult who had been arguing with the child. She swiftly spanked his behind with her free hand.

Thinking about the incident later, it all came rushing back – a rattled mother’s short-circuit reaction. As I raised our three and ran a day care, there were occasions when patience had worn thin in frustration and weariness, when I had angrily lashed out. Ashamed and regretful later, hugs and apologies followed, human nature restored to harmony.

Strangers had no right to pass judgment on that lady in the store. I had once been in her tennis shoes myself, when I didn’t always act lovingly and sensibly. Stressful overload happens!

A plain, glaring room with rows of chairs and a table of magazines brings women of all ages, races, and cultures together. Strangers with individual life stories wait to be excused following their dreaded mammograms, some chatting, others absently flipping magazine pages or attempting to concentrate on a book they’d brought.

Members of a sisterhood of breast cancer awareness, they sit stiffly, unceremoniously attired in cotton wraps. Each will eventually hear their name called by the monotone voice in a blue and yellow flowered smock. Most are directed to leave, with a sigh of relief, while a few wait anxiously to be called back in for further imaging. Then, for each of them, it’s worry and wait for the final results.

You will likely never again cross paths with the salt and pepper haired, southern accented, deeply tanned, and laughing eyed massage therapist with the beautiful feet, with whom you shared brief chitchat in a Mayo Clinic waiting room. Emotions flood a sea of waiting rooms as patients come and go, day after day. Silently and anonymously they share feelings of dread, hope, fear, doom, encouragement, healing, and dying. In the realm of the human race. People are more alike than they are different. That which we share unites us. The human penchant to make choices separates us. What we know and what we don’t know makes us unique.

What if there were one common human choice necessary to attain the single most crucial outcome necessary for the continued existence of life on the planet? Some believe that may very well become reality throughout this century. It obliterates all other aspects of life that humans now share, because its fulfillment is life itself.

Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson, 79, states, “Scientists generally agree that the world has entered the first great extinction to be caused by humans.” Wilson claims, “We only know 10% of the species on earth. Creating a database for the 1.8 million organisms that are known to us is essential for discovering the other 90% of nature.” (Which have yet to be identified.)

E.O. Wilson is among the throng of eminent biologists who share the sense of urgency for scientific and financial backing for the EOL (Encyclopedia of Life,) to better understand life on the planet before human intervention destroys “the vast undernetting of nature.” “Half of the world’s plant and animal species could be extinct by the end of the century,” he maintains.

The urgent necessity of this movement has already brought the political and religious divides together to literally “save the Creation.” Speaking of “common ground,” this is an unsettling place to find ourselves, as we languish in denial.

I’d rather be skeptical about all that. Hasn’t the human race been programmed for survival? Are we all running in circles, our roots entangled? In the throes of battering, deadly storms, any outstretched hand will do.

Grab on and hold tight! Is it fear or faith that unites us?

Janet Burns lives in Lewiston. She can be reached at patandjanburns@embarqmail.com.



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