During much of my life, I’ve traveled through dense, human-populated parts of this great country and the world. At times, as I’ve ridden through some parts, I’ve felt the need to hold my breath, rather than breathe in the foul smells and dirty air.  How do people live here, I wonder?  They can’t be healthy!

Then I think about one of the many things we people take for granted – clean air and the blue skies above that make up our atmosphere. It’s important that the word get out, so people will not remain disconnected from their natural world. Instead they will realize that (like it or not) we are connected to what happens to our natural resources, and our atmosphere is one of those important ones.

In our natural world, or Nature, our atmosphere is a wonderful life support system for all life on Earth. It is a blanket that provides us with life-giving oxygen, in the air that we breathe. It shields us from harmful radiations, ultraviolet light, and meteors from outer space.  Our atmosphere provides all plants with the carbon dioxide they need for photosynthesis – their life support system; which naturally creates a very “interdependent relationship” between plants and people.

All plants discharge oxygen into the air during photosynthesis; as they nourish themselves with carbon dioxide taken from the air.  All mammals, including people, take in oxygen and discharge carbon dioxide when they breathe.  Both plants and mammals support each other’s existences. This mutually beneficial exchange process can be summarized in the biological term “symbiosis” or “symbiotic relationship.”  A definition of “symbiosis” found in Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (10th Edition. 1997) is, “2. The intimate living together of two dissimilar organisms in a mutually beneficial relationship.”

Whether we’re aware of it or not, plants and people depend on each other for the very air in our atmosphere that keeps us alive.  We really need each other…..a truly symbiotic relationship!

Another different flavor to the word “atmosphere” can be found in human society.  There we often use the word to denote “a spirit or mood that surrounds us.” It is usually associated with places or people that we’re connected to, that are within our comfort zones and not strange or alien.  Often we seek such places and people for the atmosphere they provide us; those fond interdependences, friendships and social life support systems that provide meaning to life.

However, the comfort zones of many seem to be also exclusion zones; whereby those persons or things that are different or foreign are not welcome.  How welcoming are we to strangers and aliens?  More often than not, those “different persons” are shunned and avoided, or even abused rather than looking for the mutually beneficial gifts that we and they possess.  Why does our society so often focus on differences rather than similarities?

Ever feel that Nature has its act together, more than the “intelligent world” of Mankind?  How is it that mutually beneficial “symbiotic atmospheres” can exist outside of man’s society, but (more often than not) not inside it?  Why do we unwittingly obstruct “human symbiosis,” by not helping knock down the cultural and alien walls/barriers that separate we people from each other?  Why can’t we learn to get excited about the prospect of learning about new foods, ideas, cultures and people rather than pushing them away because they’re different?

So, I (again) find myself confounded by a conflict between the wisdoms of Nature and people.  And I can’t help feeling that by listening to the wisdom of the natural world that God created for us, we can also hear God talking to us.  Listening and acting on such good thoughts and ideas, can make us better people and bring down the walls that separate us.

The message of symbiosis in Nature cries out for us to care for each other – no matter how different our social atmospheres might initially be.  Maintaining a positive, supportive atmosphere in a world with many different peoples should result in increased symbiotic relationships that are supportive atmospheres for all involved.  When such interdependences are built on care and concern for our each other, we connect and “the wall” disappears.

Seems like we then find ourselves bound together in the true spirit of brother and sisterhood that God intends for us.  Might this not be a true human symbiosis?  After all, God in His great wisdom created a natural atmosphere around this Earth that protects and sustains ALL His many creations, including us.  Might He not want us to also extend our own warm, human social atmospheres over ALL our sisters and brothers?

But is anybody out there really listening? Do they really care?   Or will many of us stay disconnected……from Nature, each other, and ultimately God?