Interconnectedness – a call for chariness

“When you hit the nose, the eye cries.”

~ Amharic Proverb

My daughter and I went to Switzerland to visit with a friend about two years ago.  Walking around, we reached a place where we saw a statue of a broken chair in front of the UN office.  We asked what that was about and learned that “The Broken Chair” is a monumental sculpture in wood constructed of 5.5 tons of wood and is 12 metres high.

The sculpture was erected by Handicap International in front of the main entrance of the United Nations, where it was intended to remain for three months, until the signing of the Ottawa Treaty in December 1997 in Ottawa. Following ratification by 40 countries, the Treaty became effective as an instrument of international law on 1 March 1999.

The failure of significant countries to sign the Treaty and the strong public support for the sculpture caused it to be left in place. The Broken Chair was officially dedicated by Handicap International to support the signature of an international treaty on a ban on Cluster Bombs – Convention on Cluster Munitions, which was signed in Oslo in December 2008.

The giant chair with a broken leg symbolizes opposition to land mines and cluster bombs, and acts as a reminder to politicians and others visiting Geneva.  Yes, the broken leg is a reminder of the need for countries to collaborate towards making peace by banning something that destroys humans.  Unless all countries felt responsible to make peace, sign treaties that matter to all, and work towards peace, nothing will work out sustainably.

I want to extrapolate the symbolic nature of the broken leg to the broken hearts, broken hopes, broken dreams, broken life that needed the equal and mutual responsibilities that we need to take for each other.  If we are not considerate of others’ needs, it is like trying to sit comfortably in a broken chair.  Our interdependence calls for being accountable to one another for growth, development, peace, stability, healing, restoration and mutual care.  We are interdependent to make peace.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.  I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.  This is the interrelated structure of reality.” In other words, when you hurt, I hurt.  When I am in pain, you too will be.  When I reach my goal, it is your success someway.  When I lag behind, I drag you in arrears.  One way or another, we are very much interconnected.

The concept of interconnectedness is expressed in the physical nature, social, environmental, economic and political arena; and expressed in life’s interdependence.  In natural ecology, there is interdependence of every form of life on other living things and on the natural resources, such as air, soil and water. Humans depend on animals as sources of food. Domesticated animals depend on their human caretakers in order to survive as many lack the ferocity and guile to survive in the wildlife. Interdependence shows interconnectedness.   Plants need carbon dioxide emitted from humans and animals; on the other hand, the later need oxygen emitted from plants; forming interdependent relationships and ensuring mutual survival. Interdependence in nature shows interconnectedness.

Globally, countries are economically interdependent.  Globalization calls for international interdependence with disadvantages as well as advantages. No country remains an island surviving and thriving without the connection and collaboration of other countries.  Politically, human right issues in one country and internal wars call upon the global attention and support to deal with local matters. Economically and politically, we are interconnected.

Our reciprocal dependence shows that we can destroy or build one another.  My point is since we have that capacity; shall we deliberately choose our interdependence to lead us to collective good?  We can create energy and possibility that serve us all.  We can think creatively what benefits us all without minimizing others.  We can exercise shared leadership and shared responsibilities.  If we do not try to dominate each other, the world is enough to accommodate us and grow up together. 

I found another notion that illustrates interconnectedness in body. About five months ago, I fell down and fluid leaked into my joints making my right leg unresponsive to the brain’s order.  In fact, when I tried to do things that were not directly related to the affected leg, I felt excruciating pain in other parts.  Then I started to question, what in the world was wrong with me, why would my other parts ache?  Well, the body works as a system though I do not see the exact link; everything is interconnected at different levels.

The concept of interconnectedness and one affecting the other is a call for us to be sensitive to each other’s needs and exercise fairness.   Before I conclude, let me draw your attention back to the symbol of the broken chair that peace requires the collaboration of all.

Where do you see yourself? In that missing broken leg? In the seat? In working towards the wholeness of the chair or cutting the leg?

Seble Hailu

January 23, 2017