Canticle of the Leaves

By guest blogger Portia Heller

As I look out the window, I swear I can see the leaves actually burgeoning right in front of my eyes. I always love these too few days of green blush that covers the barren branches. The pale, yet vibrant green is a shade that is much too fleeting. Maturity will soon grab the reins and rush the entire pallet into the deep, verdant emerald of pre-summer. Interesting. As I think about that, every year for my entire life, I have wished I could halt this youthful, leafy exuberance. Guess that is the normal cycle in all humans. We want our little ones to stay in the glory of innocence, because it is so extraordinary, and we know that with the cloak of maturity come the storms and winds, and in the case of the leaves, the bigger the leaf, the more area to catch those winds and be shredded, or torn, or brutally ripped from the branch.

America’s Most Cooperative Act

It was Alfred Adler who told us that our most “primal” goal was to survive and that adapting is our most “normal” action. He also reminded us that cooperation is natural, and competition is a cultural invention to be superior “over the others”. He was quite sure that from birth on we are “strivers to overcome” minus feelings and situations. And, he let us know that striving “against the others” was neurotic and unhealthy. And that “striving with the others” is fundamentally “normal”.

In a country like the USA, that prides itself on competing, striving against the other, and Constitutionally protects (if not “glorifies”) “self interest”; how do we find a beacon that promotes cooperation? It is quite simple. It is something most of us do each day, or we rely on others to do it for us. We drive cars, and ride in buses. We travel streets, roads, highways, and superhighways. 

Coast-to-coast we are all moving simultaneously on thoroughfares. Millions are in motion, on the right side of some path. We are acting on basic human desires. We want to: Get home. Get to work. Go to recreate. Take a trip. Deliver goods and services.

Most of the time we have a basic order that parallels that of a beehive. Coming and going, mindful of others, capturing the “honey of purpose”. We move quite freely, based in a shared “common sense” agreement that longs for safety, and being treated as an equal.

Is it perfect? Not at all. We have accidents. Injuries, even deaths. It is very noteworthy, that these human mistakes and tragedies shake us. Someone, quite like us has been harmed. Once we get past the anger, blame, and outrage, we feel the sadness and disbelief of loss of convenience, limb, and life.

All of this brings us back to a basic human innate possession. We have “free will” and freedom of choice. When we look closely at the accidents. Injuries, and deaths we see freedom exercised in a “self-interested and non-cooperative way.” “I was in a hurry.”  “I was drinking.” “I was texting.” “I do not use seat belts.” “I was distracted and went the wrong way.” “Move out my way–this is my road!”

While this use of freedom and choice grieves us, we know it comes from a heightened feeling of “self-interest”. We also know it is held in place by an excusing of the self. And, also an aggression to overcome personal inferior feelings. These feelings can lead to the excluding of “the importance of the Other”.

Conversely, think of how many of us arrive safely at home, at work, at places of enjoyment and fun day in, day out. In the words of Adler, many receive sound and care-filled training in “Social Interest”, “normal” ways of adapting with others, and a desire to live in a Community of security, belonging, and significance.

Perhaps the next time we are out there we should see our drive as a dance, a play, a demonstration, or a game.Something we are doing together. We are, after all, making this daily journey, and a much larger journey together. Right?
John Reardon}

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