Monday, August 15, 2011

United We Stand

Let me pose a rhetorical question. If you weren't there, who would I be writing to? Would I be writing at all? Would I be sharing my thoughts, or would they remain sterile and unvoiced inside my mind?
Without all the people in my life, would I, in the fullest sense, really exist at all?

I'm sorry, one rhetorical question proliferated! But those ideas fascinate me . . . have you a moment to explore them a little further?

As I'm sure you know, the words 'the survival of the fittest' were not used by Darwin. It was a phrase coined by a colleague. Nonetheless, what is considered to be his phrase has become a bed-rock of our western society. From City bankers to school leavers, we all believe in the basically competitive nature of life.
But competition is growing hotter, and inequality would seem to be increasing, as we watch this happening more and more people are questioning the theory's validity.

Think about it for a moment. There's precious little security for those balancing precariously at the top of the pile. What if the pile they are standing on crumbles? The high-flyers might survive, they might be fit . . . but they will find themselves on their own, ankle-deep in rubble, with no-one willing to help them and nowhere to go.

Surely we are truly strong not when we compete, and push the weakest out of the way, but when we stand on level ground, pool our abilities and talents, and work together?
One and one is not two . . . it is something much greater.

Perhaps this is an alien sentiment at a time when the London Olympics grows ever closer. But even here we are deluded. The word 'compete', stemming from the Ancient Greek, means 'striving together'. There is no suggestion that any one should gain success over another. It is our interpretation that puts one of the group in the front, and then awards him honours for that position.

Nonetheless, even in our modern Olympics the original concept remains valid. Granted the top step of the winners' podium can accommodate only one occupant. But did he or she climb to those heights unaided? What of the trainer . . . the support team . . . loving family members . . . not to mention a cheering nation? Isn't that a beautiful example of 'striving together'?

At heart we are communal creatures, our multiple, individual abilities and talents are there to be shared. Kindness, compassion and integration bring strength, not weakness, to society. In isolation, detached and competitive, we are not strong. Far from it, we are incomplete, anxious and vulnerable.
If we are, indeed, all parts of a whole, how vital that our individual contributions should have the integrity of those of our fellow components . . . we all depend on each other.

May I ask you to try a short experiment?
Place your hand on your heart, then breathe in gently and say these words . . .

control . . . intimidate . . . dominate . . . fight

- did you feel your heart beat faster and your body grow tense?
Let's try it again, but this time say the words . . .

nurture . . . support . . . trust . . . love

- that time did you feel your heart expand and your body relax?

"United we stand, divided we fall", wrote Aesop, many centuries before the birth of Darwin.
I rest my case!