Oftentimes these days, the world seems so disconnected and fragile to me, like humanity is teetering on the edge of its own self-destruction. While part of me calmly recognizes this illusion, another part of me is feeling quite a lot of angst. This is the part of me that, when society shows its worst side such as in the rash of name-calling, pettiness, fighting, and cruelty that we’ve seen lately, wants to find a quiet island somewhere in the South Pacific. I know it’s time to bring out the big guns – my positive memories and my compassion and my faith in our essential connectedness. Sometimes I get a rare glimpse into the latter of these, which serves to fuel me for the rougher times like now.
I often think about the massive amount of cooperation that it takes to run a country on a daily basis. Roads, trains, delivery trucks, gasoline stations all need some sort of well thought out regulation and maintenance. Our huge population is fed, clothed, sheltered, and entertained. We have laws to keep us from having accidents on the freeway, to limit how much we take advantage of each other, and to keep us out of utter chaos. Hospitals, grocery stores, schools, corporations, restaurants, football stadiums, are all functional because of the attitude and practice of cooperation. According to the New Oxford Dictionary, the definition of cooperation is “working jointly toward the same end; assisting; complying”. To govern a state, a county, a town, a business, a charity, or a family, all require uber amounts of this stuff. If we weren’t able to cooperate, human extinction would have occurred a long, long time ago.
Since prehistoric times, humans have relied on each other’s assistance and cooperation, to help each other gather food for the winter, to protect each other against the elements and the predators. Sadly, the idea of cooperation has gotten a bad rap lately, what with the exaggerated and silly bashing of “political correctness” (really just an adolescent thumbing the nose at authority), the obsession with the battle between the black and the blue, an anti-government sentiment that is seeing new heights, and don’t forget unprecedented obstructionism in Congress. There is a popular belief now that anybody with an idea different from ours should just be pushed aside, eradicated. This is the epitome of anarchy, the nonrecognition of authority, since no two people really have exactly the same take on anything. We are seeing aspects of that right now all over the world. War itself is the refusal to cooperate and compromise, the demand that my needs not yours be fulfilled. Our society seems to be embracing the mentality that compromise is for the weak, and that “we don’t need no stinking government!’ (or cooperation in any form for that matter).
While maintaining an ongoing debate about what is truly acceptable breeds constructive ideas, we are taking this anti-PC sentiment too far. We risk ditching the idea of compromise and cooperation altogether. Would we really be better off without a governing system of rules (i.e. the regulation of banks and the monitoring of greenhouse gases?) Is the solution to our increasing impatience, ignorance, and frustrations to give the inmates control of the asylum? Where has our willingness to listen to our experts, to explore intelligent options, and to compromise gone? We must find it soon, or we will not have to worry about terrorists or whether or not racism still exists. We will destroy ourselves from the inside out, just like the Republican Party has just done. (Although perhaps they will return wiser and more empowered to do the right thing. I’m an optimist.)
I personally hope and believe we can avoid this scenario. I remember what happens when society largely stops functioning, as it did during the Hurricane Rita evacuation in 2005. Cars were lined up on the freeway for hundreds of miles, making deliveries of food and gas impossible. Gasoline and food was scarce, and there was no place open to stop and use the restroom (except the bushes). And yet at no other time in my life have I ever witnessed more consideration, patience, and cooperation than from my fellow evacuees. Almost no one honked their horns or tried to cut in line. Windows were rolled down and people communicated with each other, giving helpful directions as we crept along at speeds of zero to twenty for ten or more hours. It was a surreal experience, as if Time had stopped, and we had entered some sort of dimension where there were no differences, nothing separating us. We traveled as one.
Thinking of this reminds me who we really are and what we are capable of when we transcend the illusions that keep us feuding and competing with each other, making each other wrong. Remembering all this reawakens in me that sense of Timelessness and puts me at ease. My defenses come down, my stress melts away, and I can embrace the idea of our brotherhood. I feel my body hum and my mind relax. My sense of connection with my world re-emerges from my depths. I am recharged with the truth of who we are.