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73 Intelligence over Obstacles


Do we separate “us” from “them”? Neuropsychologists tell us that we are hard-wired to do so. However, they also tell us that we are hard-wired for cooperation. Let us accept that cooperation occurs among humans to reduce our separation.


We have already discussed measurement theory. Here we do not need a scientific scale of accomplishments. We can apply the question, “does this idea make us better off?”

Putting others ahead of self focuses on collective advancement. I benefit when you perform at your best. Adding us all together makes the world better. By including everyone, we are at maximum scaling without monopoly. Nobody is squeezed out.

The aggregate view of progress contributes to validation of self. Rather than isolating my own progress, I am worthwhile because I am part of a group success.

Our experiences and knowledge start out local. We increase our reach when we expand awareness beyond our selves and immediate surroundings. Aggregation of this process achieves community, ultimately resulting in global improvement. The individual experiences joy in the progress of others.


It gives us great benefits to mesh with other people. However, it involves a certain outflow of energy and returns uncertain feedback. Interactions are not always easy.

Leaders require solitude at least some of the time. They go on retreat, they self-isolate, they withdraw to regenerate themselves. Doing so is fundamental to health. Along with a lot of listening to others, a leader must listen to self—for integrity and for reality check. Preparing and organizing begin within. Time spent looking out at nature is often the most precious part of a day, time well spent.


After constructive solitude, social interaction draws on the refreshed supply of energy. Positive feedback increases energy, but it is not assured. What comes back from others is not always so placid. Negative feedback ranges from simple rejection (the invitation is declined) to hostility (the inviter is attacked).

We often feel we are too close when the feedback is painful. We recoil. We withdraw back into our selves. We disconnect our individual silo worlds. Some cushioning may be necessary for self-preservation, but long-term isolation wipes out the above benefits. The world goes dark. To avoid this result, we must learn.


What do we do when we reach out and are attacked in return? Let us assume good will, the desire to make the best of a situation. That begins with forgiveness, which does not mean being vulnerable to re-injury. This is followed by examining the “self” to determine whether the invitation can be improved enough to have a more appropriate result.

Sometimes a situation calls for retreating to safer ground and sticking to behaviors that have previously been well received. However, reality cannot brook abandoning crucial issues unresolved. An illustration is a parent who angrily tells an offspring “you are no longer my child.” Another is a region or country that maintains “we are free to pollute our air without limit.” Retreat from certain obligations is not viable.

Happy ending

Confrontation and opposing force are not durable answers to questions of hostility. We face questions without final answers. Desiring not to leave readers in depression, I suggest instead a direction forward.

Emulating crows?

Laboratory crows and chimpanzees have demonstrated a special behavior: when one animal was hungry and caged in the same room where another had a generous food supply, the free animal opened the latch on the cage to release the trapped individual. This blog is not the place to develop a full scientific analysis. The story is here as an example of redistribution which, in the case of humans, we give a special name.

We do not need to speculate on the purpose of the creation in which we find ourselves. We give it purpose by what we do with it. We can propose that a creator intended it for all his children. Alternatively, we can expect human reason and moral stewardship to do as well as the animals in the story did with a collection of individuals and a collection of resources. The animals demonstrated freedom from the crippling distinction between self and others (article 51)—the freedom we humans call sharing.

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