I’m always amazed at how nature simply shows us how to be in life.
1.5 billion years ago something quite amazing happened in our evolution. The Earth at that time was populated by single celled organisms call prokaryotes of two kinds, bacteria and archaea. They were single celled with a cell wall. The cell wall allowed transfers across the cell membrane but didn’t allow anything major to get inside the cell.
As single celled organisms though, they weren’t going anywhere fast. They were definitely never going to make it to the complex multi-celled organisms we are, unless something changed. And it did.
One of these single celled organisms (an archaean) decided to open its cell wall and allow another single celled organism of a different sort to be absorbed (a bacterium) into its cell. In actual fact, in that moment, it was risking total annihilation. The cell wall is there for a good reason, to protect the contents of the cell from a hostile invader and to it open up in order to let another cell of a different type enter is a full on risk. It was also risking losing its independent identity.
The risk worked. Each cell had something the other didn’t and together they could harness energy far beyond what either could do individually. They then evolved into tiny mitochondrian power houses and over a long history – became you and I! Without the initial risk of opening the cell wall, we as humans would not be here, well maybe we would but we would have arrived by a completely different route.
So every time I think of the two single-celled organisms and the risk of opening the cell wall I think of relationships. How difficult and risky it is for me to open my cell wall to others and let them in. Sometimes it’s just difficult to open my cell wall to myself!
In our relationship with others, it seems evolution is always calling on us to open our cell wall and allow others in, be they democrats or republicans, migrants, family members, lovers, or just people we meet during our day.
Don Americo Yabar the Peruvian mystic whom I studied with, always said we can go through life as an open hand or a closed fist. This always stuck with me. It was important that as an open hand if something dangerous was about to happen, we could always close our fist but our default way of living should be an open hand.
During the US Elections and especially around result time and just after I was struck by how much we can close our cell walls to others and rationalise it perfectly in our minds as to why we would do this. But what if we could at these times of tension move from a closed fist to an open hand i.e. open our cell wall to another?
Locked behind our cell walls we are not taking advantage of the benefits of our evolutionary process. And the joy and love of relationships that awaits us outside our cell wall. I know it’s a constant journey for me in all aspects of my life but thinking of the phenomenal history of those pioneering cells and also of Don Americo’s open hand, gives me a way to navigate through using the wisdom of what nature shows us.