To Cooperate

Sometimes when I notice that I’ve been a little haughty, the metaphor of “dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants” comes to mind. This saying seems to be more effective than the expression, “too big for your britches”, because something more than arrogance is mentioned.

We’ve all had moments of hubris  and have experienced having someone take us down a notch. When we’re completely, intellectually honest, we remember that practically nothing we have accomplished has happened completely by our own efforts. From day one, we are nurtured and taught by one or more parents. We learn about the world around us and techniques to function within it from school teachers and professors. To build our artifacts, write our literature, create fine arts, requires the knowledge of experience from our ancestors.

So, “dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants” alludes to our cooperation with great people from the past. Nearly everything we encounter or use is something that was refined and adapted from the works or ideas of others.

Think of the coffee mug you drink from. It’s origins go back to prehistory when someone came up with the notion of using something that contains liquids better than cupped hands. Perhaps they used large leaves to scoop water from streams. Maybe they used sea shells or coconut shells. On and on the refinements came until other people came up with the coffee mugs we take for granted.

From our most basic tools up to the International Space Station, the most important ingredient has been cooperation. Even noteworthy inventors like Thomas Edison could not have accomplished their works without the aid of his assistants and employees. It has been argued that some fair amount of brainstorming is at the root of many products we use each day.

“Great discoveries and improvements invariably involve the cooperation of many minds. I may be given credit for having blazed the trail, but when I look at the subsequent developments I feel the credit is due to others rather than to myself.”–Alexander Graham Bell

The myth of the rugged individualist is largely just a myth. The most intrepid of explorers and thinkers have depended in some manner upon other people. Cooperation is the key to human survival and achievement. Housing, food, transportation, literature, entertainment, any manufactured or cultivated thing we can think of came about through cooperation of some sort.

“The keystone of successful business is cooperation. Friction retards progress.”–James Cash Penney

The Earth faces many overwhelming crises. It will require a great deal of respect for each other and immense cooperative efforts as the basis for tackling the problems of the world. Cooperation is empathy in action.

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the 12th century author John of Salisbury. “We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more, and things that are more distant, than they did, not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature add to ours.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Contemplation, cultural highlights, Gadgets, History, philosophy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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