OPINION: Oneness In the Pandemic - April 2020

april 2020 opinion sue shinomiya we are one Apr 15, 2020

by Sue Shinomiya

As of this writing, at least half the world’s population - some nearly four billion people - are on some form of stay at home orders. We are the subjects in this grand experiment of global quarantine. Will the disruption work? Will we flatten the curve? We are all moving nowhere at the same time. The slowdown in human activity is literally stabilizing the earth’s crust, causing the world to have less geological shaking known as ambient seismic noise, such as the vibrations generated by cars, trains, buses, planes and people tramping on the earth. In this moment of quiet, the geologists can detect the earth’s smaller quakes. 

The Pandemic of 2020 has been like a slow-moving tsunami, all of us rising with it, navigating in our little self-quarantined boats. We live with both the trepidation that the world has become dangerously too close together, and the hopefulness that we can beat this virus if we act in unison. Our entwined fate, our Oneness, is hard to escape. 

What is Oneness? According to Google, Oneness is the fact or state of being unified or whole, though comprised of two or more parts. Without the diversity of at least two, there can be no Oneness. The opposite of Oneness is polarization and otherness. 

In the world of science, Oneness means that everything that exists is one whole, and that the apparent independence of objects, events and processes is illusory. Consider life at the subatomic level. Our molecules are swirling around within us. Looking at the matter-to-space ratio in an atom, what we consist of is nearly all space, all energy. Every day that my set of molecules holds together is nothing short of a miracle! In that space and energy between us lies Oneness. It gives me comfort and calm. 

“What would happen if everyone truly believed everything is one?” This 2018 article in Scientific American documents the research of Social Scientists Kate Diebels and Mark Leary, who wanted to determine if a Oneness mindset could be described as a culture. They created a 6-item “Belief in Oneness” scale to measure this phenomenon. Those who scored higher on this scale were much more likely to have an identity of inclusiveness, extending beyond the individual and encompassing wider aspects of humankind, life, nature, and even the cosmos.  

As Interculturalists and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion professionals, students, teachers and proponents, how are we rising to the occasion in this pandemic? After all, we are the ones already familiar with disruption, and with tolerance of ambiguity. We are facilitators of life transitions and transformative learning, and we are masters at connecting across distances and differences. Through my limited window of social media and emails, I have been in awe to see all the ways that my friends and colleagues have been upping our game, jumping right in, with on-line solutions, learning opportunities and leadership, including multicultural emergency response, leading in a crisis, connecting with virtual teams, building cultures of inclusion while physically distanced, wellness and slowing down, interfaith collaboration, organizing volunteers, the basics of Zoom - just to name a few! In this crisis, we are generously offering our know-how, healing, bridging, connectedness and inspiration. We may be far apart right now, but I see you, and I’m cheering for all of us. 

Pause for a moment, breathe deeply, and contemplate your Oneness with the world. How are we each staying whole? Who have we been in this pandemic? What aspects of this era and this pause do we want to make permanent?  What type of world do we want to see on the other side of this? This could be our chance to shape the narrative towards a more intentionally connected and inclusive world - our Oneness moment.

Most of us have heard the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you,” and it’s more updated and inclusive cousin, The Platinum Rule: “Do unto others as they would prefer to have done to themselves.” I’d like to offer one more rule inspired by the great astrophysicist Carl Sagan and original host of the TV show “Cosmos”. When the first photo of earth from the edges of our solar system was sent back to earth, he gave his famous talk on the Pale Blue Dot: 

“There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.” (C. Sagan)

Let me introduce what I call The Pale Blue Dot Rule: “Everything you do to others; you do to yourself.” While we cannot control word events or the virus, we can control our actions towards one another and towards our planet. We can create a positive ripple effect, just by doing good, being kind and lighting the way. 

We are all one. 


Ms. Shinomiya, a 20-year member and formerly on the Board of Directors of SIETAR USA, runs Global Business Passport. She is a consultant, facilitator, author, Ikigai (purpose-finding) coach and leading Interculturalist, who inspires global professionals to connect, respect, lead and succeed across cultures, distance and differences.