Did you ever consider that the lower kingdoms are ahead of humankind in many ways? Think about it. Herds of animals cooperate in hunting, ants are well organized, and bees have cooperative hives. For the most part animals and plants work together and survive. It’s not dog-eat-dog. But our current culture is competitive – you’re only good if you come out on top, have the most of everything, end up king-of-the-mountain.
Hell, we’re supposed to be the land of opportunity, try hard and you’ll succeed. Really? Do you think if you or I trained hard enough we could run a four-minute mile or beat Bolt in a 100-yard sprint? Or maybe win the Nobel Prize in Physics for some work on relativity? Nah. I didn’t think so either.
I don’t have to tell you the USA has a problem, not if you’re a vet and especially not if you’ve been deployed. We have a country where success and supposedly happiness is measured by the almighty dollar. We had a president who was elected, claiming he was a successful businessman even though his casino failed, his University was a scam, and he skimmed his own charity.
But he sold a line on success, a natural tag-on to 8 years of “Yes you can!” playing on people being unhappy they weren’t top dog. So, you gave a couple of the best years of your life to defending this company. Now like the blues goes, “Good Lord, I done – done what you told me to do,” and you’re back here wondering what the fuck went wrong, where are your goodies, and why you sometimes feel like shit. I’m just asking. So, if you’re still reading, I’m going to ask some more.
I have a good friend, a graduate of West Point, who flew Blackhawks. He has a son who did a tour in Iraq. The son sleeps with an AR – 15 under his pillow. I didn’t ask if it was loaded. Sometimes the son works 80-100 hour work weeks, trying to make good on the American Dream. Really?
Take time for a breath, a big breath. You know money, titles, and lots of things, aren’t going to buy happiness. And if that’s how you measure success, you’ll never get there. Happiness – maybe sleeping without an AR – 15 under your pillow would be nice. But, heck, you got to make up for lost time, can’t stop to breathe, got to kick ass and go for that good life even if it kills you. Don’t blame you.
There are more questions but first a couple of words about mushrooms; I’ll leave the potatoes for the next column.
First – a story. When I was in college I was on the water polo team. Every year we played West Point and every year we got thoroughly whupped. Man, those guys played like a well-oiled machine, like they had one mind, of course, they were tougher players. But it was the one mind that beat us; their cooperative effort.
Now for the mushrooms. The part we eat is the small fruiting head of a massive web of underground threads called mycelium. These threads spread out searching for nourishment. They form humongous networks and share information as to where to go, forming an underground plant internet that helps other plants communicate and even share nutrients.
All part of a big picture, being able to communicate and nourish each other – not climbing over but cooperating. So maybe that’s the first step, opening our hands and hearts, accepting ourselves and others.
You can be part of that network. Easy. All you have to do is flash the secret sign – a friendly smile.
TAKEAWAY: Strengths come with cooperation and working together and the greatest strength of all comes when you work with someone not like you.
Next time I’ll explain why you’re worth more than a hill of beans and are not just small potatoes.
Ken was a Professor of Mathematics, a ceramicist, a welder, and an IBMer until downsized in 2000. He taught yoga until COVID-19 decided otherwise. He continues writing, living with his wife and beagle in Shorewood, Wisconsin. He enjoys chamber music and mysteries. He’s a homebrewer and runs whitewater rivers. Ken is a writer and his literary works can be found at https://www.kmkbooks.com/