Review for Heart of Oneness

Those of our readers who already know Jennifer Kavanagh’s work will be pleased to see a new publication. This short book is an essay on interconnectedness and is intended in as an antidote to the depressing news we see on our screens every day. She writes: We need to remember that alongside the horrors there exists a parallel reality of compassion, love, daily acts of kindness and selflessness, expressions of what we know in our hearts to be the true: our essential interconnectedness. Most of the ills of the world stem from our departure from this reality.

In 10 chapters she explores the political and personal implications of interconnectedness. She describes how when she first volunteered for a homeless project she was sent on a tea run. She was nervous: I walked over to a young man in a sleeping bag and asked if he would like a cup of tea or coffee and whether he took sugar. I found myself forming a relationship with another human being. Instead of passing a bundle in a doorway with embarrassment and guilt, I was doing something, however small, and my preconceptions fell away. It was an epiphany, and I realised in that moment that that bundle in the doorway could have been me. She notes that genetically we are more connected than we realise. Going back only 600 years, the common ancestry of Europeans can be traced to a single individual. Looking beyond the human species, the natural world has numerous examples of mutuality. Indeed, DNA shows that the composition of the human body is remarkably similar to the earth’s crust. Given these connections is it not in order

for us to respond to the world and to others with a sense of love and kinship? Going beyond the material to the inner world, Kavanagh notes the commonality of faith expressed by many writers, especially in relation to mystical experience, a fact noted by the Quaker, William Penn in the 17th century: The humble, meek, merciful, just, pious, and devout souls are everywhere of one religion, and when death has taken off the mask they will know one another, though the divers liveries they wear here makes them strangers. She concludes: From religion, in science, and from our own daily experience we can see that separation and division are human distortions.

The book is unashamedly partisan. Although the author recognises that there is much in human life and history that emphasises the contrary, our competiveness and tribalism, she wishes us to turn in a different direction. Maybe if enough of us turned the world might become a happier and more generous place. Such an attitude is not unfamiliar in Quaker circles, though the sceptic may say that only a few have ever been convinced. Kavanagh counters this with the observation: The first thing to recognise is that there is no such thing as a small piece of work. . . . . All we can do and are, I believe, asked to do is inform ourselves and to foster love in our hearts and actions.

The sentiments expressed in this book are unlikely to surprise universalists though they may appreciate their clear and wellwritten presentation. The ideal audience would be those who have never questioned the divisions of species, religion and nationality which separate us and who might be prepared to look afresh at the values they hold. (Dorothy Buglass in The Universalist)