The usually colorful Cyrille was quite somber when I arrived for a long overdue haircut. A friend of his died yesterday, he shared with me quietly. Then not even five minutes later, one of his fellow stylists cried out, “He’s here!” while staring intently at her phone. Her baby nephew had just been born. It was a sweet and poignant moment, as she dashed around the room showing off his picture to everyone.

I’ve begun to think of humanity as a kind of wild and beautiful macroorganism. Something more profound than mere empathy is at play in our shared joys and pains. When we honor and respect one another, we are really aiding and nurturing ourselves. And when we hurt each other, whether through violence or callous disdain, we harm not just an individual but our collective being.

We are blessed in that we can consciously shape our collective future. I can almost see it, a great flowering of humanity over time. Ancestors, activists, and inventors–many before us have given to build the world we share today. Can we do no less for future generations?

I believe, naively perhaps, but quite passionately, that we have the ability to create heaven on earth. It happens when we share our stories with one another, acknowledge each other with compassion, lend a helping hand, and ask for support when we need it.