Although E. M. Forster could hardly have intended that the epigraph to his novel Howards End—“Only connect”—serve as a two-word distillation of the Buddha’s teachings, it certainly is a good, and timely, one. To connect across the differences that divide us; to connect by building bonds of affection, understanding, and support; to connect in the recognition that we and all things are inextricably, well, connected—in our age of accelerated travel and instant communication, doesn’t this simple phrase offer us a promising touchstone for Buddhist practice? Is not connection with others one of the surest ways to loosen the bonds of self-concern and to find one’s best way to act in the world? It is, as well, a wonderfully economical description of the basis, the means, and the fruit of spiritual life. Our differences do indeed matter, but they don’t matter as much as this: Only connect and, in Forster’s words, “Live in fragments no longer.”
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