More and more, I find myself drawn to the “co” words…collaborate, cooperate, co-create, cohabit, commune, etc. “Co” is a prefix that means “together with.” We have become so individuated in our American culture, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Yet now it seems time we begin taking our individual unique gifts and sharing them with each other, thus creating a world “together with” each other.
I was shocked when I looked up the official definition of the word collaborate. At it’s core, it means to labor together. Yet a common definition indicates that collaboration is associated with “assisting the enemy.” What does that say about how we see the world? How much of what we see is viewed through the eyes of war, opposition, me/mine, them/theirs?
Growing up, I loved hearing stories about my mother’s time as a child experiencing neighborhood block parties, having neighbors drop in for tea/coffee, bringing pies to new neighbors to greet them, etc. How many of us even know our neighbors today? All too often, we are so caught up in our own personal day to day lives and details, that we make no time to connect with our families, let alone our neighbors!
Evolutionarily, we need to individuate. We need to know who we are, explore and develop our unique skills and gifts, and connect with our own true self. Sometimes this requires a period of what may seem like selfishness or self-absorption. Humanity has been in this kind of adolescent stage, and is now moving toward an early stage of adulthood. What will that look like? For some, adulthood means truly connecting with who they are, and how they fit into and contribute to the world and its inhabitants. For others, adulthood is just an age associated with certain privileges, perpetuating a sense of self-absorption and entitlement. Humanity as a whole can go in either direction as well. In my view, true adulthood has nothing to do with age or privilege, and much more to do with a maturation that includes understanding our interconnectedness.
If we are not connecting, how can we collaborate, co-create, etc. Connect is another one of those “co” words, meaning “to bind together.” What if we didn’t think of connecting as to be “bound” in the sense of lost freedom, but rather to be “bound” in the sense that perhaps we really are all united in some mystical, ineffable way?
We hear a lot about unity and oneness. But what do they really mean? They are great buzz words, and many people throw those words around as if they are commonplace, but how many people actually live in “unity and oneness?” What if being bound to each other means that we have a certain responsibility to one another? This would mean that we all must be accountable for our actions. Speaking the words is one thing, but walking the talk is another.
Then there’s the whole materialistic side of things. If we are all united, then wouldn’t that mean what is mine is yours and what is yours is mine? Think about how attached we are to so many things in our lives, our homes, our furnishings, our books, our computers and gadgets, etc. What about our view of family? Do we allow others to discipline and guide our children? How comfortable are we in sharing our family with others and in accepting other family traditions, cultures, views, etc.?
Ok, so perhaps we’re not ready for total sharing just yet, but what is missing? What comes to mind for me here is trust. I’ve come to see that we have trust in people based on three main concepts. First, we must feel that one is competent to do what we would trust them to do. Second, we must feel that they are sincere in their desire to do what we are asking them to do for/with us. Finally, we must feel that they are reliable in that they have a history of following through on what it is we are trusting them to do. But how do we establish this trust, particularly in trying to create a new way of being and collaborating? After all, not everyone is competent the first time out, and there is not a very strong track record for reliability in which doing things “together with” has been the norm. Perhaps it begins with sincerity.
Sincere is a word whose origin means “whole, clean, pure, uninjured, unmixed.” Doesn’t this sound quite similar to virtue? A difference in the core definition of virtue is that virtue includes a level of moral strength and goodness. Perhaps for us to begin trusting in a new way of doing things, a collaborative, co-creative way of existing, we must first cultivate virtue in ourselves and our world. Virtue is something that is practiced, not simply studied or understood. What would it look like to live our lives asking if everything we do is serving goodness? Philosophers since ancient times have spoken of truth, beauty and goodness as being the ultimate aspirations of humanity.
If we as an humanity have aspirations of truth, beauty and goodness, then wouldn’t we also have to have a certain amount of inherent faith, i.e. deep trust, that there is something worthy of aspiring to? Do we have a certain level of existential trust in something greater than we are as individuals, such as pure Love and Wisdom? Some would refer to this as God. Others might call it Universal Truth, Christ Consciousness, or Buddha Consciousness. Whatever one calls it, there seems to be little doubt that it exists for nearly every human being.
The amazing thing about practicing virtue is that it’s right here in front of us every day. Every day we can find beauty, truth and goodness in someone or something. Every day we can consider how our actions radiate truth, beauty and goodness. As we radiate these qualities, others begin to also feel and experience them within, and in turn radiate them out more. If we make choices aligned with virtue, others will begin to do so as well. We cannot control when or how others choose to behave in sincere or virtuous ways, but we can practice living this way ourselves.
The systems we live by and our way of being are determined by our beliefs in them. As more and more people begin believing in a new idea, more and more people begin to buy into that idea, and the Earth is suddenly round rather than flat, or rotates around the sun rather than the sun rotating around the Earth. So, isn’t it time to change our beliefs? What would it look like if we choose to believe in more “together with” methods of existing? We can simply choose to believe, have faith, and have trust in the inherent goodness we all know is possible. We can begin creating in new ways, visioning new concepts, and manifesting a new paradigm filled with a future that is “together with” the Earth and her people.
How do you cultivate virtue in your life and live your inherent goodness? If you would like some basic virtues to work with each month, visit my virtues page for more information. This is a great place to begin to cultivate these qualities in your life, and begin to affect the world around you in a way the brings greater unity, collaboration and co-creation. May we all find moral strength and goodness in our daily actions, and co-create beautiful new ways of connecting!