Community in a piece of paper

A famous teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh is the teaching on ´a piece of paper´. During a dharma talk he would pick up a piece of paper, bring it up to his eye level, look at it and say:

We don’t have to be a poet to see a tree in this small piece of paper. We can see a tree, and if we look a bit deeper we can also see the clouds, and the rain fall, that were necessary for the tree to grow. We can see the earth, the minerals of the earth nourishing the tree. But we also see the wood logger, who has cut down the tree. The logger had breakfast that morning, so the bread he ate that morning is in this piece of paper too. And the field of wheat from which the bread was made. We can also see the truck transporting the tree, the fuel needed for the truck to drive, and so on. So, if we look at a small piece of paper, we can see the whole universe in it.

“Nothing can exist by itself alone.”

By this simple teaching we can see that community is in the fibres of life. Not only in a piece of paper, but in all of life. Nothing can exist by itself alone. Everything in life is interdependent, nourished and supported by countless things. A piece of paper, a flower, a shirt, you, me, we all exist because of real ‘community’. That is the truth of life. But strange enough most of our suffering comes from a feeling – or an idea – of separation. Therefor Thich Nhat Hanh always used to say: we are here to wake up to the illusion of our separateness.
We think, we feel that we are separate. But that is an illusion. Therefor the invitation, to wake up from this illusion and to come back home, to come back to the truth of life, the truth of community. When we see that we can only exist by the support and nourishment of everything around us, we naturally become humble, and grateful. Grateful for our parents, our ancestors, our school teachers, our friends, the clouds, the farmers, the baker, the sun, the insects.

The whole universe in one still image

And when you look at my films, what do you see? I see an editor, a composer, or two of them. I see a sound mixer, a colour grader, I see a translator – and for some films several of them -, I see a producer, some friends giving advice. And I see my camera, made in Japan. I see the skilled technicians creating such a refined instrument. I see reality with all its wonders. I see my eyes and the possibility to see, to hear, to sense. I see the morning sun, I see the full moon, I see Thay, young and old, I see diligent monks, nuns and lay friends preparing retreats with love and care. I see a beautiful community of people sharing their smiles, and opening their hearts in a fearless way, both to me and my camera. I see mindfulness practitioners walking the path together, in Chile, New Mexico, Uganda, and back at the foot of the hill in Plum Village.

“Without community we cannot come home.”

I see my parents, my four blood brothers, my sisters in law, my nieces and nephews. I see my youth, my present, my timeless future, my tears and joys. Even in just one still image of my films, I can see the whole universe. And therefore I bow, here and now, thanking each and everything, from the depth of my heart. Without community film is impossible, without community we cannot come home.

And no, I did not forget my web designer. Thanks to her peaceful dedication and loving attention, the Evermind Media films have a home now too. Thank you so much Hanneke.

With gratitude,


Wouter Verhoeven