For the best part of a century now there has been a huge emphasis on competitiveness in Nature. The story we have been sold is “survival of the fittest”, which some authors have taken to a whole new level – not just survival of the fittest organs but survival of the fittest DNA (see “The Selfish Gene”).
But my lifetime experience as a doctor has led me to see more clearly the importance of co-operation.
If a person’s cells or organs are all fighting each other for resources and energy then I’m not sure they’d be feeling that healthy.
Bodies work best when everything works together.
When our cells and our organs each do what they do best, and work in harmony with each other, then we have a healthy body. It’s a principle which, in recent years, has been called “integration” – where well differentiated parts build mutually enhancing bonds.
Same thing applies for a whole person (and by that I mean more than just the body) – where the different parts of a being hang together well, the person is healthy. Think of your personality for example. It’s likely you will be aware of having many different strands, facets or “modes” – how you are with your parents, how you are with friends, how you are at work and so on, are likely to be distinctly different. If each of those aspects of your personality are at war with each other you’re likely to feel disturbed. However, if there are mutually beneficial links between those parts of you, you’ll feel “whole”, “integrated” or “in harmony”.
Same thing applies for groups of us. Maybe what has made human beings so successful on this planet is not that we can compete against other creatures so successfully, but that we can co-operate so well.
I think that’s true of all of Nature. These little ducks heading off on an adventure down the Charente, seem a pretty well integrated little group to me!
I’m not saying competition doesn’t exist. Of course it does. I’m just wondering if we’ve over-blown its importance, and in the process, forgotten what might be more important – hanging together!