In all the spiritual disciplines, happiness is said to come in part from a sense of interdependence, at-oneness or what the Catholics call communion. When you are at-oned–atoned–there is no us and no them and nothing to fight. There is peace. And happiness.
This type of happiness includes generosity because once you sense your interdependence or communion, you cannot help but care for environment and people. But it also works the other way around, because if you act out of care for environment and people in the right spirit, it can help bring that feeling of communion and oneness–happiness.
While the religions do talk about this, it is not exclusively a religious truth. It is a human truth.
As you know, Pope Francis recently published his encyclical On Care for Our Common Home, about how Catholics (and he also addresses the encyclical to non-Catholics) are called to stop the destruction of our habitat. He talks about many things but one thing I like is where he talks about the sense of “communion.” The bolded headings and paragraph breaks are mine, not the Pope’s, but what is in italics are his words alone.
Communion means it is impossible to truly care about environment without caring about social justice
A sense of deep communion with the rest of nature cannot be real if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings. It is clearly inconsistent to combat trafficking in endangered species while remaining completely indifferent to human trafficking, unconcerned about the poor, or undertaking to destroy another human being deemed unwanted.
This compromises the very meaning of our struggle for the sake of the environment… Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society.
People and institutions cruel to the natural world–not in communion–will also be cruel to humanity
Moreover, when our hearts are authentically open to universal communion, this sense of fraternity excludes nothing and no one. It follows that our indifference or cruelty towards fellow creatures of this world sooner or later affects the treatment we mete out to other human beings.
We have only one heart, and the same wretchedness which leads us to mistreat an animal will not be long in showing itself in our relationships with other people. Every act of cruelty towards any creature is “contrary to human dignity” We can hardly consider ourselves to be fully loving if we disregard any aspect of reality.
Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth.