Interbeing is the principle coined by Thich Nhat Hanh that links the principles of impermanence and the nonself, revealing the inter-connected-ness of all things (Order). We are all connected through our actions, feelings, thoughts, and basically everything else. This website will connect the concept of interbeing with three ways one can view interbeing through connectedness with nature, through people, and through events. The film Avatar (2009) will relate the concept of interbeing through how we interact with nature. The film Elephant (2003) will portray the concept of connectedness through relationships with people. The 1991 film, My Girl (Howard Zieff) will relate the concept of interbeing through events.
Tich Nhat Hanh said:
"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"(Thich Nhat Hanh 55).
His idea of interbeing mostly involves nature. However, I have related this concept to interrelatedness between people and their actions (events) as well. I could have taken a stop motion film about a rose growing and dying, but instead have evolved the idea to people living with nature, people living with other people, and people's actions and how those changes the future. Our actions, according to this concept of interbeing, are so important that they can affect people in huge ways. In My Girl (1991), Thomas J and Vada's action of tearing down the beehive meant Thomas J's eventual death. In Elephant (2003), a bully's action of throwing a ball of paper at someone led Alex to start a school shooting. In Avatar (2009), the military's decision to destroy Pandora resulted in the entire civilization defending themselves and the entire ecosystem they live in to be completely destroyed.
Thich Nhat Hanh also relates a beautiful rose to garbage when he writes:
"A beautiful rose we have just cut and placed in our vase is immaculate. It smells so good,
so pure, so fresh. It supports the idea of immaculateness...If you look more deeply you will
see that in just five or six days, the rose will become part of the garbage...And if you look
into the garbage can, you can see that in a few months its contents can be transformed into
lovely vegetables, and even a rose" (Thich Nhat Hanh 56).
In this example of a rose being compared to garbage, Thich Nhat Hanh describes a cycle where something can be so ugly and yet turn into something beautiful or what used to be beautiful becoming so ugly and back again. How can permanence or the sense of a definite self even exist when everything is always changing and we are all interconnected? In my experience, even though Thich Nhat Hanh mostly refers to the concept of interbeing with examples from nature, I have experienced interbeing within other things as well.
For example, relating to people, I have friends who know with my other friends. Sometimes, these friends know my other friends from very far away. I met someone at Hendrix College, in fact, who knows a bunch of girls from my high school. It was amazing to talk to him in a place so far away from my home about people that used to be so close to me. In this very sense, people are very connected. We are also connected in the way that we all have emotions. We can relate to people very easily because we all react to events in similar ways.
"Oh my gosh! You know Tara and Lizzie? No way!"Events and other actions people do affect other people and other events. If I had not gone to the same high school I did, I probably wouldn't have met those people that my new friend at Hendrix knows and we wouldn't have had the same connection. If I didn't go to Hendrix, I wouldn't have experienced the same feeling of amazement when I found out that this new Hendrix friend knew a bunch of my friends from home. This example is nothing compared to the example portrayed in My Girl.
Hanh, Thich Nhat, and Robert Ellsberg. Thich Nhat Hanh: Essential Writings. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis,
(Note: I did not include URLs for embedded video clips since it is possible to trace the origin through the clips themselves)
Image cred: http://jingreed.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/2008/04/03/zen_circle.png