Interbeing by Thich Nhat Hanh

If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a
cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud,
there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot
grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The
cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is
not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we
can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are.
“Interbeing” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet,
but if we combine the prefix “inter-” with the verb “to
be,” we have a new verb, inter-be.

If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply,
we can see the sunshine in it. Without sunshine, the
forest cannot grow. In fact, nothing can grow without
sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in
this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-
are. And if we continue to look, we can see the logger
who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be
transformed into paper. And we see wheat. We know
that the logger cannot exist without his daily bread, and
therefore the wheat that became his bread is also in this
sheet of paper. The logger’s father and mother are in it
too. When we look in this way, we see that without all of
these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist.
Looking even more deeply, we can see ourselves in this
sheet of paper too. This is not difficult to see, because
when we look at a sheet of paper, it is part of our
perception. Your mind is in here and mine is also. So we
can say that everything is in here with this sheet of
paper. We cannot point out one thing that is not here—
time, space, the earth, the rain, the minerals in the soil,
the sunshine, the cloud, the river, the heat. Everything
co-exists with this sheet of paper. That is why I think
the word inter-be should be in the dictionary. “To be” is
to inter-be. We cannot just be by ourselves alone. We
have to inter-be with every other thing. This sheet of
paper is, because everything else is.

Suppose we try to return one of the elements to its
source. Suppose we return the sunshine to the sun. Do
you think that this sheet of paper will be possible? No,
without sunshine nothing can be. And if we return the
logger to his mother, then we have no sheet of paper
either. The fact is that this sheet of paper is made up
only of “non-paper” elements. And if we return these
non-paper elements to their sources, then there can be
no paper at all. Without non-paper elements, like mind,
logger, sunshine and so on, there will be no paper. As
thin as this sheet of paper is, it contains everything in
the universe in it.

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