Of all the definitions of community, the one I prefer is an ecological definition, “a group of interdependent organisms of different species growing or living together in a specified habitat.” This essentially states that every living organism on this planet is a part of a single community; the birds are our neighbors, the beasts our bosses, the plants our best friends. Within this community diversity is essential and commonality serves to create shared understanding. These dualistic opposites teach us the skills required to respect one another and retain peace within the relationship for the mutual benefit of all involved — this is the only true goal of sustainability, to treat the entire world as we ourselves seek to be treated because we can’t live without this symbiosis. The skills required are simple; awareness, compassion, forgiveness, patience, acceptance, gratitude, and love. Well, they sound simple anyway, perhaps even a little trite or overly sentimental. We all know what those words mean, but we’re not necessarily shown through human behavior, except perhaps within our closest relationships.

The idea of a global community comes from finding the commonality within each of us in order to practice these skills when faced with our diversity. This is a game we’re all playing as we move through the world where we’re challenged daily to create and receive simple kindness. Some of us are better at the game than others. In order to win the game we have to weed out assumpton, bias, judgement, constructs of ego and identity in order to find a kernel of universal truth, something that can unite each of us, and build a respectful relationship on that.

The foundation of each person is a life that will embrace a spectrum of emotion, a vault of memory, and a body that grows, breaks, heals, and withers. We each have a story to tell, including a laundry list of regrets, walk-in closets of hopes and dreams never lived, and a treasure chest full of joyful moments. In this lies our commonality. Our emotional experience is a language that unites us all.

We will have had our life experience because of everything around us, the plants that purify our air, the water that sustains life, the people who hurt us, helped us, and those we’ve never met, along with the flora and fauna that died to keep us alive. This is our diverse community. These connections ripple out forming overlapping layers of concentric circles with each individual life as droplets of water in the center of every ringlet, they flow further outward through our impact and connections to life on this planet.

As a species we have trouble even recognizing other humans as members of our shared community, let alone the diversity of life that actually allows us to exist at all. Perhaps this is because recognizing our dependence on external forces causes us to feel insignificant in the grand scheme. Our failure to understand humanity’s significance resides within our ability to conceptualize our connectivity to all life, find empathy, and work within natural systems to support our own, is resulting in mass extinction and exploitation on a planetary scale. If we collectively can’t get over ourselves enough to realize the whole is truly more magnificent than the sum of its parts, and life itself deserves respect, we will be joining our forces to observe our own extinction, and we’ll take the concept of community with us.