Sunday, July 1, 2007

Sal's Place

Another month gone by and much has happened. I'd like to do a reflection this month on cooperation.

I was sitting at a picnic table eating my lunch, which consisted of a salad and a croissant. I held the croissant in my left hand and the fork in my right. With a sudden flutter, a tiny bird swooped out of the nearby tree and snatched a chunk of my croissant right out of my hand! Stunned, I began to feed the birds the remainder of my croissant, a piece for them and a piece for me, while I observed their behavior.

If you've read this column before, you'll find I am always feeding birds and observing their behavior. I think we can learn a lot about human behavior from other species.

As I expected, the birds came to the table and would take bread from me as I held it out to them. A few were more shy or fearful and waited for me to put the bread down before they picked it up. So far so good... until something changed.

A new bird flew down and commanded a huge chunk of roll from my hand before flying off with all the other birds in hot pursuit. I watched in amazement as the bird flew this way and then that way… dodging and outrunning the others. It swooped under a branch, through the bushes, and around sharp corners in attempts to lose the other birds, all at high speed!

Being out of my league, I sat thinking "stupid birds, why don't you come here to the food source instead of chasing that one bird down for the piece it got?" What did they get for all that effort, flying fast and burning energy, only to end up sharing one tiny morsel when I had a half of a roll left to share with the lot?
Perhaps the bird that took the large piece was not liked by the other birds. It seemed the birds wanted what it had, when they had access to their own food supply from me. It struck me as a jealous and greedy behavior. The rest of the birds wanted what one bird had and was unwilling to share. Yet cooperatively, they could have taken the whole role back and fed their entire community.

Far be it from me to be an animal psychologist. I may be totally off base on this. However, it brought up a constant pattern I see in the human population. No matter what one has, they always want what someone else has and will fight to get it. These fights may take the form of disagreement, badmouthing, backstabbing, and even angry verbal attacks and unfounded slander.

It seems personal recognition, glory, and one-upmanship is often a motivator. Sometimes this motivator is at the cost of what really matters to the individual and group. And sometimes the only thing that matters for many is personal recognition. This often takes the form of criticizing others and wrapping one's whole group worth around one tiny item, when in reality the individual have much to contribute.

I find achieving something via a cooperative team effort just as rewarding as achieving it alone. It is often much easier to collaborate, cooperate, and combine efforts. I must agree with Alan Moses on page 24-25 of this issue. It's time to "come together, right now". Not just between groups, but within our own groups. The infighting must stop. Those who fight endlessly stop progress.

The Lone Ranger may have wanted to go it alone and have all the glory, but he was NOTHING without Tonto! Each and every one of us has something we specialize in to contribute. Why not use it all to make the community into a solidified whole?

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