There’s a Buddhist proverb that clearly defines how everything is connected.
“This is because that is. This is not, because that is not. This ceases to be because that ceases to be.”
Everything, animate and inanimate, is connected and part of a greater whole. It is as part of this greater whole that we, as humans, can understand the this/that conditionality that permeates through our careers, relationships, emotions, and lives every minute of every day. If this happens, that occurs. If this doesn’t happen, that doesn’t occur.
We see this idea in Buddhism as the principle of dependent origination, in the ecological sciences as, simply, interconnectedness, and in our everyday lives as confusion and fear. How can this be? What are the odds? Are these really all related somehow? I can’t believe it! It must be a full moon tonight.
Sometimes the interconnectedness of seemingly unrelated things can be quite scary. At least I feel that way. The reality is, though, everything is related in one way or another. As Edward Weston, dubbed one of the masters of 20th century American photography, puts it:
“Clouds, torsos, shells, peppers, trees, rocks, smoke-stacks, are but interdependent, interrelated parts of a whole, which is life.”
I propose Mr. Weston add human and veterinary medicine to this list as well because not only are these two fields of medicine related to the objects in his statement, they are also inextricably linked to one another.
As the concepts of One Health and One Medicine put it, there is no difference of paradigm between human and veterinary medicine. These respective fields can (and do) contribute to the development of one another through the sharing of intellectual thought, design, and practice in a sphere of health that is virtually the same. It is in this sphere that humans, animals, and the environment exist.
We see this interconnectedness in the adoption of human surgical and orthopedic methods by their veterinary surgeon counterparts, collaborative cancer and genomic research projects (because cancer is cancer regardless of the organism that has it and all organisms have DNA), and the development of protocols for judicious use of therapeutic antimicrobials aimed at combating antibiotic resistance worldwide. The list goes on, and as the challenges doctors face become more complex, the American Medical Association and American Veterinary Medical Association become closer friends. It is this partnership that led to the development of One Health and One Medicine.
The overarching goal is to discover and implement protocols that translate across all species because, ultimately, when individual species are helped, all are helped.
“This is, because that is.”
If non-human animals can be helped with a technology, a guideline, or a protocol, their human counterparts can (hopefully) be helped as well. If they cannot be, we are reminded of the second part of the Buddhist quote:
“This is not, because that is not. This ceases to be because that ceases to be.”
It is frightening to think that if one component falls into poor health, at some point, all will.
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