Interbeing sounds like an abstract term, but I saw it in action at the grocery store yesterday. Interbeing is a concept at the heart of the Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat’s Hanh’s teaching. It means that everything is interconnected and interdependent. Interconnection is a lot easier to see during a pandemic (the Greek root of “pandemic” means “all people,” so there’s a hint).
For the first time ever, I used one of those sanitary wipes on the shopping cart I took. I kept my gloves on to touch certain things. What somebody else touches, I touch too. What somebody else needs, I do too. The shopping cart handle connects us. So does our need for extra nonperis hable goods. So do door handles of retail shops, and the handles on sinks in public bathrooms after we have washed our hands.
This could easily become an anxious list of what we literally hold in common. But I choose to think of it as a reminder of interdependence, common goods, and common good. Somebody else’s hands were on what I use. Somebody obviously made the goods I purchase. A lot of things in daily life are hands-on: made by hands (which often operate machines that make), taken up by hands.
Interbeing is both simple and profound, one of those Zen koan things for these stay-at-home times. We’re all in this together.