by Bret S. Beall
I am an only child. As such, despite having many friends, I still spent quite a bit of time by myself through much of my childhood. This aspect of my youth forced me to be more introspective than most of my peers. It also allowed me to become more aware of the world
around me, and its myriad connections.
Being the bright, observant child that I was, I quickly noticed how organisms interacted. For example, insects ate the tree leaves, birds ate the insects, and then built their nests in the trees; the bird droppings fed the
trees so that they could produce seeds, and the squirrels distributed the seeds.
I became an environmentalist at a very young age because the impact of humans on the natural world was so apparent even in the remoteness of the Sierra Nevada Mountains or in the coastal redwood forests, or along any of
Northern California’s beaches. These were the early and mid 1960s, and in those days, litter was one of the most obvious issues. When I was 9, I started an ecology club at school, and organized garbage collecting campaigns in some of the natural areas left near suburban
developments near our home in St. Louis, Missouri, as these areas were the last refuge for many types of wildlife. Humanity’s disconnection from the planet was obvious and disheartening.
Rachel Carson published “Silent Spring” in 1962, outlining the long-term effects of DDT and other insecticides to both wildlife and humans. This was another key factor in my embracing the concept of connectivity.
Insecticides are poisons for insects, but those poisons affected other species as well, including humans. All life is connected, and if we make the world inhospitable for the smallest organisms, it will be inhospitable for us. Carson’s caveats led to many changes, not least
of which was a growing return to organic farming methods, initially on a small scale, but which grow in abundance even today as consumers see the connection between their health and insecticides, herbicides and other artificial chemicals.
My awareness of connectivity led me to pursue a scientific career. I settled on evolutionary biology and paleontology, as I wanted to study how organisms interacted and connected through time with their environments. Even in
elementary school, I began accumulating vast amounts of scientific knowledge above and beyond what was taught in public school. When assigned papers to write for class, I would always present a unique twist by combining ideas that surprised the teachers. This came
naturally, and I truly couldn’t understand why the teachers would be surprised. It was two decades later (after college and graduate school, where I continued to offer original ideas) that I realized I had a special talent, a “gift,” for “synthesis” that allowed me to see
the connections between seemingly disconnected topics that others couldn’t see without a bit of guidance. Today, I use that talent to bring unique ideas and solutions to offer guidance and assistance to anyone who wishes it.
Just how far does connectivity extend? As the title of this essay indicates, I believe that connectivity is infinite. This belief comes from my knowledge of physics and biology. Let’s look at the different levels of
connection, and afterwards, I’m sure you’ll agree with me.
Organismic Connectivity: There is a famous play and movie, called “Six Degrees of Separation,” that looks at the phenomenon of connectivity among individual humans, hypothesizing that each of us is connected, separated
from each other by at most of six degrees (ie, individuals). I don’t think that it’s productive to quantify connectivity in that way, as I know that each of us, as an organism, is connected to other organisms. It’s obvious that we are connected to the plants and animals
that are part of our food chain. And those plants and animals are connected to still other plants and animals, and to the soil and water and air of the planet itself. Awareness of these connections is crucial to our survival, as plants and animals have coevolved over
millions of years with each other and with their environment. Plants consume carbon dioxide and produce oxygen; animals consume oxygen and produce carbon dioxide. Everything is balanced, so without enough plants, we won’t have enough oxygen.
Each of us is also connected to an amazing assemblage of organisms that live in and on us, on which our health depends; the most important of these are the bacteria that live in our guts; it is vital that we be aware of such
connections, so that we avoid overusing antibiotics and other chemicals that can cause our interior organisms to become imbalanced. Think about it!
Planetary Connectivity: By definition, every organism is connected to planet Earth. This is a given (until we discover extraterrestrial life). So, whenever something happens to the planet, all of us organisms living
on Earth are affected. As a paleontologist, I know how tectonic drift has influenced global climate, leading to extinctions. As a broadly-trained scientist and environmentalist, I am aware of how humanity has influenced our planet in many dangerous ways, from the
above-mentioned widespread use of insecticides, to causing the extinction of record numbers of species through a variety of means, to polluting and over-fishing the oceans, to immensely destructive strip-mining and deforestation, to contaminating the air with exhaust
containing innumerable toxins and carbon dioxide, the latter now leading to global warming. As a species, humans have known about our connectivity to all of these dangerous practices for decades, and have addressed a number of them with varying levels of success, but now
we’ve reached an almost irreversible situation that could destroy or at least severely alter our planetary connection forever. And I haven’t even mentioned the disconnective potential of nuclear weapons. We came into existence on this planet, and we owe Earth our respect,
stewardship and guardianship.
Universal/Spiritual Connectivity: The Universe is very old, with estimates ranging from 11 to 17 billion years based on different techniques. These estimates are consistent with the Big Bang model of the formation of
the known Universe. Every day our scientific knowledge of the physical Universe increases, but in all honesty, with each new answer, new questions arise, and many of those questions relate to how we connect with the physical Universe, which is part of the spiritual Universe
… and this is where I begin to use “Universe” as a synonym for God.
I have always believed that science and spirituality are connected, and so can co-exist peacefully and logically. Entire books have been written on this topic, but the bottom line is that science is based on evidence and
testability, and spiritually addresses those aspects of life that are beyond evidence and testability, and therefore must be accepted by faith. It’s that simple.
A brilliant high school teacher of mine, Miles Hufft, shared, “Once you accept the existence of God, everything else is a construct of man.” What he meant is that God is everything, and everything is God, so all of the minute
rules and miniscule regulations imposed by any number of formal religions are manmade. God, and our connections to God, are so much bigger than these rules. This is why I am usually very cautious about discussing spirituality in any sort of detail. My own extensive studies
of comparative religions indicates commonality and connectivity at their very cores, which gives me great hope that eventually humanity will embrace those common cores and cease disagreeing over the rules of religion. Also, I hope that that humanity will focus on our
biological commonality … biologically, we are all the same, and those apparent differences like eye color and skin color and hair type and height are just minor variations. Furthermore, those social differences like clothing and house design and income, are the very manmade
differences that are irrelevant to a spiritual life. In evolutionary biology, we learn that we must focus on similarities, not on differences, to identify relationships, and I hope that allows us to connect with each other far better in the future.
Before closing, I want to return to one of the biggest questions I have: What existed before the Big Bang? One popular model suggests that the Universe is on an ongoing cycle of expansion and contraction, with Big Bang after Big Bang, ad infinitum.
That could be, but it’s completely untestable, and that brings it into the realm of spirituality, so we can choose to believe in the model, or not. What we do know scientifically is that the time since the Big Bang (let’s accept a median value, say, just under 14 billion
years) is only about 200 million years longer than the age of the Milky Way Galaxy (home to our solar system), currently believed to be about 13.6 billion years old. But, our solar system is less than 5 billion years old, so a lot was going on in the Milky Way Galaxy before
our solar system formed, with early stars forming, and exploding, dispersing their elements broadly, some of them ending up in our solar system, as Earth, as us. Now THAT’S major connectivity, isn’t it?
As a scientist, I don’t usually rely on fictional works to express my ideas. However, sometimes the great thinker who created a fictional work can arrange words to present a powerful idea. Such is the case of what J. Michael Straczynski
did when he created the following monolog for the character of Delenn on the science fiction series, Babylon 5: "The molecules of your body are the same molecules that make this station and the nebula outside, that burn inside the stars themselves. We are star-stuff.
We are the Universe, made manifest, trying to figure itself out. And, as we have both learned, sometimes the Universe needs a change of perspective."
If, as Delenn, and Straczynski, and I, believe, we are “pieces” of the Universe (of God, as “Universe” is used here), then maybe it is indeed time for a change in perspective. I hope that new perspective embraces an acknowledgement and understanding of
the connections that tie us to each other, to the world around us, to the very Universe that embraces us, and that we are wise in our decisions and actions.
We are truly infinitely connected.
© Copyright 2007 Bret S. Beall. All Rights
Read Bret's "Seasoned
Summer-Fall 2006 - "Tis the Season to Be Courageous"
Jan-Apr 2006 - "Life is a Lesson in Every Season"
Oct-Dec 2005 - "Honk if You Love Silence"
July-Sept 2005 - "A Recipe for Balanced Living"
April-June 2005 - "Trash and Treasure"
2005 - "Life Reflection: Looking Into Mirrors"
Bret S. Beall, MS, PhD (Cand). As the CEO of GOD-DESS,
I help people live fantastic lives with minimal time,
effort or money. I have used my rigorous scientific
training to synthesize psychology, sensory input, and
logic, with global cuisine, décor, lifestyle concepts,
indoor gardening and travel for each individual in an
easy-to-understand, easy-to-create and easy-to-maintain
style. For more information, please visit my website, www.god-dess.com,
or call me at 773.508.9208, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let’s start at the beginning,
though. I was born in California’s San Francisco Bay
area and lived there until I was seven. During this
time, my family often took vacations to the seashore and
to the redwood forests. There, I first felt the great
interconnectedness of all life. At seven, I moved with
my family to St. Louis, Missouri, where I continued my
environmental interests (including growing houseplants).
When I was twelve, we moved to the Ozarks of southern
Missouri, where I lived on a farm and witnessed
intimately the cycle of birth, life and death. We raised
cattle, ducks, geese and rabbits, and I worked on our
neighbor’s pig farm; we also grew a variety of produce
and I first learned about preparing and preserving food.
It was also at this time that I truly began acting on my
interests in art, design and esthetics.
I did my undergraduate work in
geology at the University of Missouri - Columbia,
graduating with general honors and honors in geology; my
coursework included a typical array of liberal arts
courses (art, philosophy, history) along with the
sciences (geology, physics, chemistry, biology,
anthropology). By living in an off-campus efficiency, I
learned the basics of simple cooking and living. After
graduation, I went on to Masters and PhD work in
evolutionary paleontology at The University of Michigan
in Ann Arbor; my studies included geology, paleontology,
biology, ecology and evolution, all presented within the
framework of proper scientific methodology.
Ann Arbor has a terrific
Farmer’s Market, which inspired me and helped me to
act on my interest in ethnic cuisines and entertaining;
this had to be done on a budget (given my graduate
student salary) and efficiently (given my graduate
student time requirements). I satisfied my artistic
inclinations by doing extensive scientific illustration
to accompany my original research. Teaching courses and
speaking publicly at student seminars, at national and
international meetings, and at various clubs and
organizational meetings provided a level of excitement I
had not experienced previously as I shared the
information and data that I had collected. “Sharing”
was the key, I realized, and this is when the seeds of
GOD-DESS were planted.
I left Ann Arbor for
Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History to accept a
position as Curatorial Coordinator of Mazon Creek
Paleontology. My long hours working on both museum
responsibilities and my own research required living
both time-efficiently and cost-effectively. In a very
short period of time, I realized I did not want to spend
the rest of my life within the academic world. I had
already experienced a high level of international
success, praise and recognition, for which I am grateful
(including making it into the Guinness Book of World
Records, and having Johnny Carson make a joke about
my research on The Tonight Show). I
eventually left the rarefied world of paleontology. This
is when the seeds of GOD-DESS began to sprout and grow.
I spent the next decade in the
field of not-for-profit healthcare association
management, honing my skills in efficiency maximization,
streamlining, prioritization, customer service,
budgeting, organization, communication and
simplification, and applying the rigors of my scientific
training to the needs of my clients. My clients
experienced extraordinary growth and profitability.
Although my salary was better
than it was in academia, I still practiced my
cost-efficient living, including preparing meals at home
to eat at work. The hours were often very long, so
time-effectiveness and efficiency-management continued
to be important, if not vital. I traveled extensively in
my various roles (including organizational
representative, event organizer, executive manager, and
lecturer); often, I tacked on vacation time to
cost-effectively explore the various cities and regions
that I was fortunate to visit, which further enhanced my
travel planning skills. On my own time during this
decade, GOD-DESS grew into a fledgling company, relying
on the empiricism of my own experiences and my research.
After more than a decade of
helping my clients experience almost 900% budgetary
growth, 900% membership growth, 400% meeting attendance
growth, and enhanced visibility that cannot be
quantified, I knew it was time to become my own boss and
devote myself 100% to GOD-DESS.
I believe we are always in the
right place at the right time. Because of that belief,
everything that I do, whether paleontology, or executive
healthcare management, or lifestyle counseling, I do
well, to the absolute best of my abilities. A lifetime
of experience and research has now created GOD-DESS and
everything it can do for you. I am grateful.
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