[Please excuse me while I nerd out a bit here on French philosophers and biology.]
Last week, while on a flight from Dallas to LA, I had an awesome conversation with the man next to me. We covered so many subjects during the space of our trip, but one topic stood out to me in particular. He introduced me to the French philosopher, paleontologist, and Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955). And what he briefly told me about Teilhard’s concepts simmered in my brain so much that I could barely sleep on the plane later, before I had to finally just get my thoughts down on paper.
Much of his work emphasizes the power of linking and the greater connection between all beings: how one person connects to another and another, and as a larger unit we adapt. Being a philosopher and a paleontologist, he also linked his philosophy into the natural world and found powerful intelligence in the world of social insects (i.e. ants, bees, termites). (1)
...which led me to think more about the power of connection. I haven’t read any of his work yet (definitely want to now), but I did some initial research online to better understand his basis of philosophy and thought I’d share a bit with you.
Lets look at ants and their amazing ability to link together and create a complex yet crazy-organized system of trade, tunnels, and the transmission of goods throughout an entire underground network. It’s as if they almost move as one giant organism. Teilhard also goes on to explain how “a collective identity begins to develop as trade and the transmission of ideas increases.” (2)
Anyone else finding this fascinating!? Just me? Alright then, onward.
He also mentions bees, and I love looking deeper into the life of bees as a metaphor for us as individuals. Not only do they each have their own stinger--which to me symbolizes our unique point of power/our gift/influence/ability to affect--but together, as a swarm, they are undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with. Have you ever seen a swarm of bees? They move as one body, and together they create a very intimidating force. One bee, as we know is only a little frightening--but a swarm? Talk about synergy--where their momentum/impact is greater than the sum of the parts--simply because they are so incredibly intertwined and connected, moving as one unit.
I recently joined a leadership group for adults, and I was sharing this idea with them this past weekend. I see us (LP 113) as a swarm of bees--each of us with our own “stinger,” or unique gift and innate power. And together, the more we move as one unit and keep the network linked, adding more and more connections (which is not unlike each phone call, text, message, conference call, and weekend we spend together)--the more powerfully we move as one, and the more our “swarm” of leaders can go out and powerfully impact the world.
More fun tidbits from Teilhard if you want to continue geeking out with me...
In Teilhard's conception of the evolution of the species, a collective identity begins to develop as trade and the transmission of ideas increases. Knowledge accumulates and is transmitted in increasing levels of depth and complexity. This leads to a further augmentation of consciousness and the emergence of a thinking layer that envelops the earth. Teilhard calls the new membrane the “noosphere” (from the Greek “nous,” meaning mind), a term first coined by Vladimir Vernadsky. The noosphere is the Collective consciousness of humanity, the networks of thought and emotion in which all are immersed. (3)
The second comprehensive work of Teilhard de Chardin is The Divine Milieu, in which he attempted to do two things. First, in the 19th and early 20th centuries there was a belief among some Catholics and other Christians that in order to be “holy” one had to devote himself or herself to purely religious activity and that secular work had no lasting value. Teilhard de Chardin, consistent with the Jesuit motto of “finding God in all things”, wanted to demonstrate that secular work (including his own scientific work) was an integral element of creation and the Incarnation, so that for religious reasons, Christians should be committed to whatever work they were doing and offering it up for the service of God. Teilhard wants to show how all human activities and efforts toward personal growth and human progress can be used to help the growth and development of the Body of Christ. Not only are human efforts useful in this regard, but they are also somehow necessary. Even though people perform these actions as ordinary human beings, and they look like ordinary human actions, they are simultaneously being transformed in the divine milieu and become actions done in, with, and through Christ. (4)