Call for Community!
In 1864, Herbert Spencer, influenced by Darwinian evolutionary theory, coined the term “survival of the fittest” to describe the competition to survive and reproduce in nature. This idiom enveloped every facet of society as the competitive spirit was considered imperative on the route to success, power and influence. This theory is rooted in the mindset of lack and scarcity where one needs to fail for the other to succeed, one needs to fall for the other to rise, and one needs to lose for the other to win! It assumes a paucity of space with limited means to accommodate all. As a result, our entire education system that promotes the need to surpass others is sowing the seeds of arrogance, distrust and disrespect in the minds and hearts of these fledglings.
Even the spiritual and religious world are not exempt from this game as we witness the rise of prophets, priests and ‘gurus’. Temples, mosques, gurudwaras, synagogues, fire temples were all created to expand our depth of consciousness. When people came together and sang songs of devotion, praising the lord, they felt elevated! However, the reductionist mentality of our times has erased the true intent of such places and now they are another space for bargaining with the God, power games, and a space to reduce inner guilt and remorse (as we believe we are making time for the good).
We rationalize our deeds given the finite nature of physical resources and justify our bestial, morally bankrupt actions that degenerate our own existence! We ceaselessly persist even though we stand on the brink of absolute devastation with the threat of nuclear war looming between nations. No wonder we are now faced with ravaging terror and strife, increased marginalization, violence and alienation.
Even though the 21st century has been deemed as an age of collaboration, the idea was endorsed since the 12th century, as Hildegard of Bingen, Christian mystic & visionary, affirmed, “Everything that is in the heavens, on earth, and under the earth is penetrated with connectedness, penetrated with relatedness.” Hence, “Empathy is the capacity to understand that every war is both won and lost. And that someone else’s pain is as meaningful as your own” as highlighted by Barabara Kingsolcer, the Amercian novelist, essayist and poet. Even great leaders, such as Martin Luther King, Jr. had acknowledged healthy co-existence based on the belief in the interconnectedness of life, as he proclaimed, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.” Likewise, the great literati of Ming dynasty China, Liu Ji, stated, “If ten thousand men unite, they will be invincible.”
Collaboration gives credence to every human being and is based on the spirit of dignity and respect. It acknowledges the ingrained capacity of the human spirit to extend beyond the perceived boundaries of our physical senses. Even though we may be challenged by insufficiency and sparsity on the outside, we are boundless, infinite and all-embracing on the inside. The external deficits are antagonist to the internal bounty and opulence. Isn’t it pitiful that in the quest to win an assumed race, we have suppressed our true nature, our essence and our integral identity?
The purpose of the community is to determine resonance with like-minded individuals as we recognize that ‘we’ is always larger than ‘me’. Communities are built on a strength-based approach — where the strengths of each member are harnessed so to shatter barriers and challenge limitations. In the process, each one is lifted to new realms of being and accesses parts within the self that were earlier unavailable. The group becomes a catalyst to further individual potential. Then the combined individual potential is brought back together to create higher forms of expression in the group. When we are able to manifest this form of cyclical flow between the individual and the group, it will allow for larger awakenings, revelations, breakthroughs and insights! It is a win-win situation as the interplay between the individual and the group benefit both in the process! It is not one at the cost of another. This approach lays in stark opposition to most organizations today that promote sacrificing self for the sake of the larger organization.
Peace is not the absence of war, but the harmonious co-existence of humans rooted in trust, dignity, respect and gratitude for each other. Daisaku Ikeda, the President of Soka Gakkai International (SGI), invites people to rely on the use of ‘soft power’, that is dialogue based on the sanctity of life rather than ‘hard power’ of power and military might. Further, he highlights the concept of “humanitarian competition”, in which “by benefitting others we benefit ourselves”.
Let us have the courage to move form darkness to light, from exclusion to inclusion, from fear to love, from walls to bridges, from isolation to community, and from war to peace! It is imperative to work with rather than against each other in our quest for the greater good! Let us step outside of the self-created boundaries, emerging from our shells and reestablish our connections in the circle of life. “Our kinship with Earth must be maintained; otherwise, we will find ourselves trapped in the center of our own paved-over souls with no way out”, as asserted by the American writer, Terry Tempest Williams.