cooperation

E.O. Wilson wrote that cooperation works for groups and he’s certainly right about that.  Last year a quail couple allowed a solitary male to join their small family. In a striking show of cooperation, he joined the two adult quail and their three chicks, and stood watching over them while they ate, feeling useful and important (or anyway it looked like that).

This year?  Holy cow.  There’s the biggest passel of quail either one of us has ever seen.  Several mother quail, two males (one ENORMOUS), and nineteen babies.  NINETEEN.  It was hilarious and transfixing to watch them taking dirt baths in the slightly moist and cool compost pile, sliding down the side and stepping all over each other.  Later on they all sacked out on the back garden path and went to sleep for a few minutes.  It was almost weird looking at all those inert little bodies; but after they’d rested they went on to demolish the sowbugs in our front garden bed.  Plus some strawberries, but the sowbugs were well worth it.  It was also quite interesting to see that quail moms are just like any other moms.  In the crowd of kids and adults they looked a whole lot more alert and focused, not to say just the teensiest bit stressed, and although no sounds were heard, when the inevitable quail baby went the opposite and wrong direction as at least one always does, the mom’s shoulders were tense, her eyes were bright, and one can only imagine what message the baby got as it abruptly scrambled into line, completely chastened.

We also have our annual frog, and this time a skink too, living in the yurt.  The frog has been a marvel of cooperation.  Although he initially wanted to stay on my bag of almonds, being disturbed at all was just more than he could tolerate and he’s figured out a place to hang out between meals that is out of our way.  Unlike the last couple of years where everyone wanted to live in the muffin tins and that was that, this guy pays attention, and obviously does Not Want To Be Disturbed.  He makes a lot of noise all night long, hopping around and ponging on the inside of the zinc tub, but seems to be responsive when we ask him to be quiet.  Either that or we’ve both gone crazy, thinking we can talk to frogs.

Which of course brings us, Gentle Reader, to my more frequent and normal train of thought which is, in fact, all about crazy.  What IS crazy, after all?  I realize now that being different allows people to apply that label, and conflate things that don’t really go together at all but can have a lasting and damaging effect on a person.  (Or, I suppose, a frog)  The danger is that when you’re a child, you cannot really differentiate the judgments people make, understand that they’re probably just off balance, and make a decision about whether or not to accept them.  You just take them in and bingo! You either think you’re OK or you think you’re really NOT OK.  Then you toddle off into the world.

Of course, in my experience it’s usually the people who ARE technically crazy who believe they are not- and really, who’s to say?  Hearing voices isn’t a helpful thing when one is looking for a job but they are still real to some extent and therefore, as real as anything else.  None of which is actually real in the sense we all want to think it is.  The truth about reality? It’s not stationary, humans are not the hottest thing since sliced bread, everything is dependent on everything else.  Nonetheless, it has also been my experience that if you are different from those around you, they will treat you as though you have some affliction along the lines of hearing voices, and that can really put a cramp in things.

So, what to do? (As always.)  We find ourselves in a world where, for example, FIFA is so rife with corruption it truly stinks and then they make women play a world cup on artificial turf.  Just a little of that old time punishment for being different? You have to wonder how they believe they can get away with the totality of their misfeasance, financial and social, but they seem to be doing it.  Then? Some person who really WAS crazy shot a bunch of people in a church because they were the wrong color in his opinion.  Where did the poison he was filled with come from?  Perhaps, and this is what I’m thinking, the “power elite” (we’ll call them that for convenience) are the crazy ones?  A person who looks like them and behaves in a crazy way that they understand- violently- gets a pass.  A person who doesn’t look like them?  Fuggedaboudit.  There’s a kind of insanity that seems to be almost institutionalized at this point.  I realized, for example, that the fact that my long time physician told me that everything going on in my body was in my head (and I believed her having had a lifetime of being told just that) led to the physical problems I didn’t interpret correctly, and further to the hospital experience that came close to ending my life.  But I’M the one who’s depicted as being crazy in that particular paradigm.  A black person can be told from now until the cows come home that we’re “post racial” and racism doesn’t exist.  I saw a white man from Idaho say just that last night on the news: No racism in this country at all, according to him.  Placing that against the daily reality of seemingly invincible racism must make a person feel…well, crazy.  You do come to expect your place at the end of the line but that doesn’t make it right.

I believe with Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr and HH the Dalai Lama that non-violence is the way, however long it takes.  But I finally realized what you have to do to make that work.  You have to truly be yourself, no matter what ANYONE says, and be the best you possible.  As fearlessly as possible- so, no pressure, right? (And. Obviously the best you possible is not the you that cheats and steals and lies and hurts others as a matter of course.) This makes connections manifest and action possible.  It’s hard to do, of course, and you won’t find a whole lot of help in the endeavor but sooner or later you will find cooperation.  However small it may be in the beginning I am convinced that this is what will eventually make the difference and allow us all to move forward.  However afraid I am that the people *I* think are crazy and who are currently running things will win out?  In my heart I know they cannot.  Because they don’t cooperate.  Things can only be accomplished through love, not through power, and the true craziness of the world today is that people seem to think the reverse is true.  Fortunately we have quail and frogs to show us otherwise.

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