If it weren’t for cooperation, life could not exist. At least, that’s the finding of a medical research group at Harvard. According to this study, every mollusk, minnow, muscle, morsel and molecule are dependent upon cooperation from a cellular level. From a very physical and physiological standpoint. We’re not talking do-gooders here. We’re not dreamy-eyed-peace-activist-let’s-just- stop-hating-and-start-loving-each-other kind of jibberish. No. According to this research, cooperation happens – and must happen – on a very physical level in order for life to exist.
Example: Just after Mr. Sperm and Ms. Egg did their hootchy-kootchy dance in yo’ mama’s belly however long ago, there was a tacit agreement between the two that they would cooperate in giving up their own identity in order to divide and produce new cells. Lots of new cells. Billions upon billions of them.
And the cooperation continued. As these innumerable cells proceeded to divide, they differentiated at the same time: some becoming your tongue; some, your toenails; some, your tailbone; some, your tactoreceptors (look it up). And, each and every one of those little independently-functioning body-builders somehow knew not only how to create whatever it was they were creating; but they knew when to quit and give the other cells a chance.
If the cells which created your heart had decided just to keep creating your heart, you might have ended up with a heart the size of a Volkswagen; but, you’d be dead. Very dead. And the baby pictures would not have been pretty. Instead, your heart cells wisely decided to cooperate with your liver, eyeball, ankle and sphincter cells. Your heart cells waited their turn to whoop up them blood-pumping chambers. And then, when they finished their gig, they stopped, backed off and allowed the other cells to do their thing.
It is this kind of cooperation, according to the Harvard research team, that enables any part of life to exist.
Cancer cells, on the other hand, are uncooperative. They push their agenda with no consideration for any of the other cells. No teamwork. No give and take. Cancer cells are the overbearing, domineering, tyrannical cells. The pushy my-way-or-the-highway assholes of the cellular world.
Biologically, it’s the same with all of life. Cooperation is absolutely essential: Vegetation spews out oxygen and gobbles CO2. Vertebrates suck up the O and puff out the CO2. If everything in Veggie World suddenly decided to only spew oxygen and never gobble a doodle of CO2, we’d all be out of here pretty quickly. Likewise, if we mobile-mammals ever quit huffing the O, it wouldn’t last long.
“You want to learn how to live?” asks Mother Earth. “Watch life. It’s been working for millions of years. Did you think you could reinvent it?” If cooperation is the way life exists on a cellular level… if cooperation is the modus operandi of life’s daily agenda, then it would follow that cooperation may well be the best rule to live by. To govern by. To romance by. To operate business by.
“Love your neighbor as yourself,” said Jesus. AS yourself. Not more than yourself; not less than yourself.
“Let go,” counsels the Buddha. You don’t hold on for dear life. Holding on seldom brings dear life. You let go and receive. And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that both ying and yang are necessary. Try to be all yang or all ying and you end up as chop suey.
Cooperation may be less of a “nice idea” and more of an imperative. Like it or not, there’s not a one of us who can exist without others. We are not operating on our own. Never have been. Never will. We are co-operators.
Or, as The Gospel of Bette Midler puts it: You gotta give a little, take a little and let your poor heart break a little. That’s the story of, that’s the glory of love.