“But then the second thing he said was, ‘You are interconnected to everyone, because the world doesn’t work without everyone.’ You may think that you’re alone, but you’re never actually alone. This was really important because at a very young age that made me understand the importance of collectivity, and that we can’t do anything alone that’s worth it. Everything worthwhile is done with other people. So that became the soundtrack in my head.”
The next phase of human evolution is about collaboration not competition, but the belief that our survival still depends on being the fittest is fundamentally entrenched in our language and culture. Instead of being the fittest, we should think about how each of us fits into a complex and collective human endeavor to make the world more beautiful for more people.
An ecological understanding allows us to identify "things"—rain, cloud, river—at the same time that it reminds us that these identities are fluid. Even mountains erode, and the ground below us moves in giant plates. It reminds us that—while it's useful to have a word for that thing called a cloud—when we really get down to it, all we can really point to is a series of flows and relationships that sometimes intersect and hold together long enough to be a "cloud."
The carbon inside you could have existed in any number of creatures or natural disasters before finding you. That particular atom residing somewhere above your left eyebrow? It could well have been a smooth riverbed pebble before deciding to call you home. You are rock and wave and the peeling bark of trees, you are ladybirds and the smell of a garden after the rain.
When you build a thing you cannot merely build that thing in isolation, but must also repair the world around it, and within it, so that the larger world at that one place becomes more coherent, and more whole; and the thing which you make takes its place in the web of nature, as you make it.
You should think of your identity as more than one thing, and as partial, and as shifting.