CFN – I have vivid memories of playing on teeter-totters as a child: most them were of being abandoned in mid-air by whoever was my partner, leaving me to plummet to the ground and smash my tailbone! Every once in awhile someone would come along with whom I could go up and down for a pleasurable period of time, and with whom there was a mutual agreement to end the game and be let down gently.
I loved those cooperative interactions so much that I was willing to go through the many painful ones in order to experience the good ones. This story explains the difference between when people cooperate as opposed to when people compete. We live in a society where competition is the prevalent mode of thinking, while cooperation is not as well understood, nor is it practised as much as it could be.
Yet, when we study science at its most fundamental level we come to realize that every single atom operates at the level of the deepest cooperation; otherwise the universe could not exist. If any atom were to just randomly decide to do something different the whole universe would experience a collapse. Therefore, natural laws operate in an inflexible manner – for instance, the sun, the centre of our universe, cannot do anything other than shine in all its brilliance.The sun cannot wake up one morning and decide not to shine and instead go for a coffee. A cow is in a perfect state of natural bliss because it is content with eating and hanging out in a field; it cannot make its own decision to move to the next city and start a new life as a travelling sales person. Only humans can do that because of the fact that we have these capacities that transcend the natural world.
We are creators of inventions that capture the power of nature and bring it into service to our needs, for example, we discovered the power of electricity so that we can bring light into our homes. We have the power to continually invent and design our world, and the scale we are doing it at now is such that there is no part of the globe that is untouched by us. This has created such a crisis in so many areas: climate change that is accelerating, contamination of the air and water, battles over oil and energy, the depletion of wild fish and bird populations, famine, corporate take-overs of agricultural lands that were formerly owned by small farmers, financial meltdowns, unemployment. and so on. My purpose is just to highlight some of the issues, not to dwell on them.
Crisis is a sign of imbalance. What could be the possible causes of the imbalances we find in our world? Could it be because we put too much weight on the side of competition versus cooperation? Think about the teeter-totter example we started out with, and ask yourself: Do we really want to continue on this downward plunge towards a world where there is pollution, mass extinction, and less of everything? Is it possible to pull out of this nose-dive and seek a more balanced, cooperative approach? What can I do, as an individual, just one person, little old me, to bring some good into this world?
Shirley lives and works in Cornwall and is a member of the Bahá’í community. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; comments are appreciated.