by Dr. A. K. Merchant*

Building bonds of positive relationships among different sections of society is crucial for progress. While management gurus have formulated many approaches and methodologies for healthy relationships in the workplace and in corporate settings, there are still many challenges. There are no satisfactory answers to a whole range of questions.

  • Is life all about our inflated egos to hoard objects and control relationships, or is it beyond such mundane things?
  • What is the place of true love, compassion, solidarity, and harmony?
  • Why is there so much polarization among communities and tension among various institutions responsible for our well-being?
  • Why are we so attached to our opinions resulting in divisions?
  • Why do we differentiate and discriminate those who know better among us?
  • Why our workplaces often appear like war zones of competition to put colleagues and subordinates down?
  • Can we not trust each other, we need to pause and think about what kind of world we have created, where do we wish to take it from here and what kind of persons are needed for the positive transformation we so desperately crave for?

Throughout history, interactions among the three protagonists of society—individuals, institutions and community—have been fraught with difficulties at every turn; with the individual clamouring for freedom, the institution demanding submission, and the community claiming precedence. Therefore, a new conception of each of the three protagonist, appropriate this age of globalization, is urgently needed.

Can human behaviour be reformed, can human performance for better results become possible, and can a society that has remained stuck to a particular thought process be transformed?

Let me illustrate this with three examples from the world of nature.

  1. If you put a buzzard, a bird like a vulture, in a pen that is 6 feet by 8 feet and without putting a top cover, the bird, in spite of its ability to fly, will be an absolute prisoner. The reason is that a buzzard always begins its flight from the ground with a run of 10 to 12 feet. Without space to run, as is its habit, it will not even attempt to fly, but will remain a prisoner for life in the small enclosure even though the top part is open.
  2. The ordinary bat that flies around at night, a remarkable and nimble creature in the air, cannot take off from a level place. If it is placed on the floor or flat ground, all it can do is shuffle about helplessly and, no doubt, painfully, until it reaches some slight elevation from which it can throw itself into the air. Then, at once, it takes off like a flash.
  3. A bumblebee, if dropped into an open tumbler, will be there until it dies, unless it is taken out.  It never sees the means of escape at the top, but persists in trying to find some way out through the sides near the bottom. It will seek a way where none exists, until it is dead after repeatedly butting at the sides of the glass.

These experiments should help human beings to realize that in many ways, we are like the buzzard, the bat, and the bumblebee. We struggle about with all our problems and frustrations, never realizing that all we have to do is look at things differently, be willingly to change our old ways and innovate! The world of science and technology constantly forces us to change so why not characterize our social relationships with cooperation and reciprocity and thereby bring positivity in our collective consciousness.   

Although physically the vision of the earth as one country and humankind its citizens is a reality. It has also given rise to other central principles such as the equality of women and men, the harmony of science and religion, the eradication of the extremes of wealth and poverty, the setting aside prejudices of every kind such as race, caste, creed, class, nationality, religion, the list can go on. Most people agree and accept these principles, and it is only a matter of time when the vast majority of world’s population will come to recognize these teachings as the marks of a progressive and sustainable civilization. 

As is apparent to many, in the world of nature there is transcendent unity, such that all phenomena are related to all other phenomena—what science today explains as “the Butterfly Effect.” Every atom in creation is the expression of all life. In the part we can see the whole and in the whole, we can see the part. The pain of one individual is the pain of entire humanity. Actions that promote unity in diversity invite us to embrace the wisdom of the complementarity, balance, and wholeness of seemingly opposing forces. Binaries like feminine and masculine become more valued when they are viewed as human attributes rather than as a reason to divide us along gender lines.

This new mindset more than ever could lead us through a process of shifting the focus from individual well-being to collective well-being. In our time, the part no longer takes precedence over the whole. Both are completely interdependent. Exclusive emphasis upon any one part endangers the whole. 

As we live our lives consciously and deliberately, universal motifs and archetypes making up a timeless pattern emerge, through which we discover not only who we are but also why we are deeply connected to all others. 

Alas, how difficult it is for most of us to accept, understand and become the change that we all wish for the good of humankind. Surely, there is much to be learnt from families, institutions and communities where people are united and living harmoniously. Just as we have observed in nature, there are countries where human beings even today, despite the perilous times, are striving to provide hope for the future of humanity through their purposeful efforts, and to celebrate the endeavours of all those in the world who work to promote unity in diversity and alleviate human suffering.

*The author is a social worker, an independent researcher, and an active promoter of the interfaith movement.


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