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The Sky and the Petal

Where does one end and the other begin?

An ageing pink rose against a white-clouded blue sky.
An ageing rose at Hawthorn House, where I work.

Today as I walked quickly from the car to the front door of the building where I work, I looked at the upturned bowl of cloudy blue sky. Then I suddenly stopped, lost in its immensity. Within seconds I felt ant-like, a scurrying bit of matter under an enormous sky.

When I started walking again my eyes spied a pink rose bush growing close to the path. I bent to smell its sweet heady perfume and touched one of its ageing petals.

I looked up at the sky again, then down to the soft petal, and up to the sky once more.

The sky. The petal. The sky.

Where does one end and the other begin?

My eyes tell me that the edge of an object defines its limits. I see the world as disconnected bits and pieces of this and that. The sky is separate from the petal. There is no connection between them. But that is my perception because of my human limitations. I can’t see or sense invisible intricacy unifying all that is. All I can see is division.

According to the famed Jesuit priest, paleontologist and philosopher, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (2008, p. 44):

The farther and more deeply we penetrate into matter, by means of increasingly powerful methods, the more we are confounded by the interdependence of its parts. Each element of the cosmos is positively woven from all the others . . .

If I possessed eyes powerful enough to see wind and microbes and the other side of the moon, I would also see the beautiful web of interdependence connecting all things. I would see how each thing is woven from – and with – everything else. I would perceive that there are no broken links. No beginnings and endings. No bits and pieces. No this and that.

Teilhard de Chardin again:

All around us, as far as the eye can see, the universe holds together, and only one way of considering it is really possible, that is, to take it as a whole, in one piece.

When I finally drag myself away from the velvety touch of the petal, I go inside, turn on the computer, answer the phone, jot notes on a pad, sip coffee, talk with colleagues. In a moment of calmness, I spy the rose and a patch of sky outside the window and smile. It still seems we are separate things in a universe, but as humans design even more powerful microscopes and telescopes, it will reveal what people like Teilhard de Chardin have been saying for centuries.

But while I wait for scientific instruments to be invented to prove it is so, I’ll open my heart to see what my eyes can’t, and sense there is no division.

The sky and the petal – and little scurrying me – and you – are one.

With love, Marlane

Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre. (2008). The Phenomenon of Man. New York: Harper Perennial.

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