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Life As Cooperation October 15, 2005

Posted by theexpert in Personal.
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What I Learned From Homecoming,” by Dave Rogers [via]

It’s a long piece, and if you’re into the whole “markets are conversations” thing, you should read the whole thing. The reason I’m pointing it out is because it presents an idea that is separate from that debate that articulates something I’ve been feeling for a long time but never really put into words.

The piece includes some of Dave’s reflections on his 30th high school reunion:

Most of us who’ve been through it recall high school as a time of many highs and lows, many changes as we began to come of age. I’m sure most of us recall the various cliques and social groups we arrayed ourselves in. The “jocks” and the “nerds” and the “cool” people and the “losers.” There definitely were faint echoes of that at the reunion, but mostly we associated with one another across those boundaries, almost as if they never existed. One of my classmates, Gordon, mentioned that he thought it was because we had so much more in common now, and I found myself agreeing with this and thinking it a remarkable insight; that 30 years of life experience had made us share a broader, more inclusive, perspective.

Later on, after a few more beers, which often don’t exactly facilitate clarity of thought in me, it occurred to me that there was something else that 30 years gave us. It was something that allowed us, at least, to begin to appreciate what we had shared in common all along. We always share far more in common than we allow ourselves to ever appreciate. And I realized what the important difference was that 30 years made. We were no longer competing with one another. We weren’t trying for the same spot on the team, we weren’t trying to win the same girl’s affections, we didn’t have to put someone else down to feel better about ourselves.

He goes on to say that as he was trying to refute an idea that he disagreed with, he realized that:

[B]y asserting authority I don’t have for a responsibility I cannot assume, in fact, I am competing with you. And in doing so, I’m placing barriers between us…

So I’m going to stop trying to compete with you. If I am right, and I could be wrong, eventually your path will lead you nearer to my position. If I’m wrong, then presumably my path will eventually lead me to yours. Or maybe it’ll be somewhere in between. But I realized I can’t illustrate the corrosive effects of competition by trying to compete with you.

I think this is a perspective I’ve had without, as I said earlier, being able to articulate it. I’m quite happy agreeing to disagree with someone because, I think, I have no interest in competing with them in the way Dave describes. When someone has a differing opinion, I’m usually interested to hear why that’s the case. I, too, will usually present my thoughts about the subject, if allowed. However, it’s more from a position of, “here are my thoughts; maybe some of them will ring true for you” (and vice-versa) rather than “I think you’ll see that my position is clearly right and that yours is clearly wrong.” I guess you could say that I prefer the cooperative approach (i.e. can we help each other come to a better understanding of our lives). Anyway, it’s tiring to approach life in the latter way, and worse, it strikes me as presumptuous. Plus, I have faith that as time goes on, ideas that make sense will rise to the top and ideas that don’t make sense will sink to the bottom. For whatever reason, I’m in no big hurry to make sure that happens. The slow but eventual process of good ideas rising to the top is actually something that I think makes experiencing life neat.

[As an aside, Dave seems to have some other thoughtful pieces, like this bit on parenting. I liked it, and I’m not even a parent. There, Dave also touches on a subject that requires faith (in yourself, in life, in goodness).]

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