IN SUPPORT OF A GLOBAL VILLAGE
WHY WE NEED ALL THE OTHERS
THE OTHER - AN ANTHROPOLOGICAL TERM
In the field of anthropology, we talk of 'the Other' - a person or group of people who are defined against the original person or group being studied. For, in anthropology, all things are relative.
In other words, one may best find oneself by defining the boundaries of 'Self' against all those things that are not 'Self.' Thus, the Other exists only in relation to the Self.
Traditionally the Other is a mystery, a kind of hypothetical question mark that invokes curiosity and fear into the hearts of the Self group. We fear those things we do not understand, and most of all we fear the unknown: darkness and death sit in the category of the unknown. Being familiar only with ourselves and those around us, we may become scared of those people who we do not understand. And, to quote a wiser creature than myself:
WHY THE OTHERS ARE IMPORTANT
Any wise man will understand that there is much he does not know. When I first started university, I thought I knew everything worth knowing about. As I have grown older, I have become aware of all those subjects about which I know nothing. I am excited by the prospect of a path of life-long learning. And yet, I also realise that there will be things I will never come to know. My own learning is limited, in a sense, by my experiences, my upbringing, my culture's wisdom, and my own personal interests. I doubt I will ever fully understand the Pythagorean theorem, or the culinary wisdom of a Polish chef. Nor will I ever understand the precise histories of the Scottish clans, for I am not one of them, nor the practical skills of a Thai carpenter.
The point being that each and every person is an accumulation of their own culture, upbringing, genetics and mix of experiences. Each person has their own set of wisdoms, unique and very different from our own.
THOUGHTS ON WISDOM:
WHAT IS THE SOURCE?
People will generally agree that wisdom is the ability to think and act from a combination of factors, including: knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense and insight.
The part experiential knowledge has to play is an important one. We often think of a wise person being older in years, as an elder person will often have more knowledge gained from experience than a younger one.
When I was fourteen, I sat my father down and told him my plan to fix the world's problems...
Take a diverse group of people, each person being skilled in a different trade, and let them apply their separate areas of knowledge to certain problems, so that a more holistic solution may be reached. I imagined that each person's wisdom would act as a piece in a puzzle of the true nature of human knowledge. We cannot complete the whole picture with just one economist or one historian.
Given the time, the patience, and the understanding, I am sure a group of un-like-minded people would come to a better understanding of any given situation. A better understanding would, in-turn, lead to better solutions.
EXAMPLES OF WISDOM THAT ARE NOT MY OWN:
(these things did not originate in my brain)...
'In a battle between elephants, the ants get squashed'
- Thai Proverb.
'V - E + F = 2'
- Euler's Equation, pertaining to the nature of spheres.
'When appropriators act independently in relationship to a Common-Pool Resource generating scarce resource units, the total net benefits they obtain usually will be less than could have been achieved if they had coordinated their strategies in some way.'
- Elinor Ostrom, Nobel Prize Winner 2009.
SEEK THE WISDOM OF OTHERS
In light of all this, it is evident that our diversity has become a blessing, bestowing differing sets of wisdom upon each person and each group of people.
As a species, we wish to share our experience and our personal understandings of the world. We tell each other stories. The greatest gift we can give to a person is our attention. An equally great gift we can give ourselves is to listen to others.
Seek the wisdom of others, and you will come to understand them, thus breaking down the illusory boundaries that segregate the Self and the Other; those boundaries are so often the instigators of hateful thoughts and actions. On the other hand, listening to and understanding others will promote, not inner turmoil, but inner peace, which in turn may lead to more peaceful actions.
I think the point I am trying to make here is simply this:
1. Never stop learning, there is always more to learn.
2. Seek the wisdom of Others, and you will find ideas that, although they are based on a different experience, are no less useful or valid. In fact, they may be another piece in the puzzle of experiential human knowledge.
3. Work together, build both local and global villages, because there is no such thing as the Self without the Others. We may benefit from our continued learning and cooperation.