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We are all one organism. When one suffers, we all suffer. When one rejoices, we all rejoice.

When one person hates, we recoil. When one person loves, we feel the attraction.

When a person lies, that poison circulates in the organism for a long time. When a person tell the truth, the organism begins to heal.

When one person practices cruelty, we all die. When one person practices kindness, that brings life.

So it is with all the vices and virtues: the organism responds according to nature.

Now all this sounds like a New Testament preachment. St. Paul will tell you it’s true. He preached unity. The mystery is that it’s true whether we will it or not. We cannot escape the mystic chords.

Professor John Nelson like to play with ideas. He made it serious play. I learned a lot from him. One quotation he liked came from Lily Tomlin, in The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. “We’re all in this alone,” she said. “We’re all in this alone.”

So you ask, “What can one person do?” That’s an especially pressing question if we’re all in this alone. “What can one person do?” To answer that question, John would tell the story of Horton Hears a Who!

Drawing from the children’s book by Theodor Geisel, published in 1954.

You remember the story of Horton the elephant. He saved all the Whos in Whoville, who lived on a dust speck. Everyone thought he was nuts. The Wickersham brothers threaten to boil the dust speck in Beezelnut Oil. The only way to save all the Whos in Whoville is for everyone to make enough noise. Horton with his big ears can hear the Whos, but no one else can. The Whos have to make enough racket to through to the other animals.

Things look desperate until the Whos find Jojo the shirker, who adds her voice to all the others. It’s just enough. The story tells us “a person’s a person, no matter how small,” but it also says we all depend on one another, we all have to do our part. Each person makes a difference, for good outcomes or otherwise. Our contributions add up.

We are all one organism. Randian individualists despise the thought, for it suggests we all have to lose ourselves in a cosmic ocean, the universal spirit. Not so. Our membership in the human community does not diminish our freedom at all, in fact it enhances it. If we become broken into isolated atoms who interact only to harm or destroy each other, we lose our freedom to despair and loneliness. Humanity’s life, its vitality create energy and strength for each of its members to grow. Life and growth mean freedom, the ability to pursue happiness no matter how you define it.

Ostracism from membership in this human community means death. The vices mentioned above – hate, dishonesty, and cruelty – all act maliciously and intentionally to place victims and targets outside the pale. Those within the pale live. Those outside die. For people who want them outside, it doesn’t matter so much how long it takes them to die. The people who put them outside just don’t want to see them again.