How a Cup of Morning Coffee Connected Me to the World

Last Thursday, a cup of morning coffee connected me to the world.

It united me with hundreds — maybe even thousands — of men and women strewn about earth.

No, I wasn’t on a bad acid trip! I didn’t hallucinate the morning ritual as if every other coffee-drinker on earth was simultaneously indulging in some magical human practice… forging a wildly imaginative union between caffeine-sippers of all races and shapes and sizes!

In just 5 minutes, I quietly reflected upon my coffee mug and considered how many people were responsible for it to ultimately reach my kitchen table.

In today’s world, I think we tend to commonly overlook the globalized nature of our civilization. It’s easy to understand why. We simply equate our personal work/living environments, shopping at the supermarket, tending to our homes and wardrobes as the end-all, be-all of self-sufficiency — in spite of our increasing dependency upon thousands or millions around the world for those very items.

Indeed, this simple practice of imagining the origin of a morning cup of coffee helped unite me with the world — in a very practical, pragmatic way.

Right now, I want to invite you to explore our human species’ incredible connectedness and interdependence upon one another in today’s shrinking world — which might in itself reveal a genuine key toward solving so many problems plaguing humanity.

First, I saw the clay.

I imagined a Thai man, maybe 40 years of age with dark frail hair and sun-worn skin, hauling heavy wet piles of fresh grey clay into a large woven basket.  He retrieves it from a natural body of water known for decades or more to produce the perfect mixture for throwing pots and bowls.

In spite of the back-breaking weight, he lugs the dripping clay for miles.

He reaches his destination exhausted but without complaint; he’s done this for years to support his family. At the retrieval site, it is weighed on pulley. He is paid mere cents on the dollar.

Then, I wondered who processed the clay.

The clay is transported by heavy equipment to a factory where it is purified and processed. Dozens of local Thai workers arm and operate the bustling machinery. The traditional garb of locals has been replaced in this environment with dark blue jumpsuits, and hard-plastic protective eye wear.

With precision and speed, the factory churns out countless thousands of identical mugs and bowls and plates. The coffee mug was then painted, packaged, and transported across oceans… and so on… and so on…

But what of that factory’s machinery itself?

Perhaps it’s of European or Asian origin, maybe German or Korean. What engineers perfected its design? Where were they born? Who educated them in the complex subjects of design and engineering? Who harvested the machinery’s metal? Transported it and fired it into a molten liquid? What about the COFFEE?!?

The possibilities are truly endless.

The contemplative nature of this exercise intends to expand your attention to the vast connectedness of this globalized day and age, and the very humbling inter-reliability that we have upon one another.

When I reflect upon this kind of an exercise, part of me feels pretty helpless. It makes me remember that I’m far less self-sufficient and independent as I might sometimes think. But that’s the point! This is nature of our ever-connected and overlapping world.

And the great news is that the “smaller” our world becomes and the more we recognize the intrinsic connection we have to each other; the more the human species will become united, every day.

The more our world “shrinks,” the more we realize how our lives touch one another, overlapping and interwoven. The more we recognize the interconnected nature of this globalized world, the more we recognize that we — as human beings — share so much and are far more similar than we are different.

From this realization, our world — for all its problems, plagues and conflicts — can suddenly and indefinitely begin to benefit.

Action Point

Right now, take a glance around the room that you’re in. Especially take note of the foreign and imported objects, from clothing to foods and home decor. Imagine how many hundreds and thousands of human beings spread widely across the Earth are responsible for those items reaching you.

It is a very humbling exercise; a remarkable and thought-provoking one. Want to learn more? Explore and enjoy the book pictured above (I just finished reading it and absolutely loved it): The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World by the Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler, M.D.

The entire world in a coffee cup. Not a bad way to start the day.

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