Here’s an excerpt from a transcript of an interview on Oprah:
“If you talk to people in aboriginal or indigenous cultures, you find the highest societal values is cooperation. And competition is a very low value. And competition beyond certain boundaries is considered mental illness,” says author Thom Hartmann in I Am. “You look at our culture, and cooperation is considered a relatively low value. And competition is considered the highest value. We celebrate the most powerful competitors.”
But is competition the true essence of human nature? Thom says that scientists decided to test this hypothesis and found that it is not.
“What [scientists] found was that democracy was being played out literally every day by … animals,” Thom says. He recalls his own experiences of going scuba diving and seeing schools of fish dart around as a collective group, and also remembers watching flocks of birds in his backyard fly together and change directions suddenly while still remaining together.
“How did they know?” Thom asks. “Well, it turns out, when you do the slow-motion photography, they’re all voting literally with every wing beat or with every gill beat. They’re voting hundreds of times a minute. And [the scientists] said, ‘We found this from insects all the way up to primates.’ The basis of nature is cooperation and democracy. It’s in our DNA.”
For me this brings up one of the core arguments of the Atma Vichara practice; namely that the cause of a great many dysfunctions in our lives is being attached to the idea that what we really are is these separate individual lives. Once that lie has been swallowed we cut ourselves off from life, along with each other. The world at large then becomes “the other” and is filled with danger and competition. We set ourselves against basically everything else. Even those we have a seeming alliance with (friends, family, loved ones, co-workers) are kept at a distance with one eye on their activities as we remain ever watchful of betrayal.
That seed of poison fouls the whole works. If we step back from that assumption for just a moment it begins to fall apart. As I was reading the above article I was eating a sandwich I’d made for lunch. Examining that sandwich just slightly past the level of raw appearance reveals an infinitely complex wed of interrelations with every part of the world and even the cosmos. From the milk harvested for the cheese, to the workers gathering the grain for the bread, to the trucker who brought the avocado to my local store, to the sun which fuels the whole process at very few degrees of separation, to the oscillation of our solar system within the Milky Way. All is connected in a web of interdependence and interrelations not because they are separate components working together but truly because reality is complete and ultimately one.
P.S. – It was a damn fine sandwich!