In Mandarin there is a phrase that goes, 水涨船高 (shuǐzhǎngchuángāo)–literally water rise boat high–which basically comes down to the often expressed wisdom that we hear in American economics, “a rising tide lifts all boats”. A lot of people attribute the saying to John F. Kennedy. But it turns out he got it from his speechwriter, Ted Sorenson, who got it from a Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce ad, who probably got it from some long line of folks leading back to China. And who knows who the first person in China who uttered it got it from? But, the fact is, it doesn’t really matter because it is a universal truth. Every time, everywhere, if the water level rises, whatever is floating upon the water will rise as well because, well, that’s just the way it is. It is not a left truth or a right truth, an American truth or a Chinese truth. It is objectively true under the conditions of our earth. And the water and whatever is floating on it doesn’t care what you or I think about it. It’s going to do what it does.
I know that the same is true for human consciousness and building relational capacity. When one arises in consciousness all of humanity is elevated just like when one team of developers creates a technological innovation, all of society potentially benefits. The good done in one place adds to the greater good of human potential and on it goes. Contrariwise, as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, put it, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” And when applied to other areas of human relating, we can see that old adage at play, “One bad apple can spoil the bunch.” Or as it is taught in the ancient Hebrew wisdom, “As dead flies give perfume a bad smell, so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.” In other words, 水浅船低 (Shuǐqiǎnchuándī)* –water shallow boat low.
Mindful of this, in my work over decades, I have dedicated myself to being a contribution to every situation that I am a part of. I tell myself that I work in the service of humanity period. Even though I am aware of the conventional “wisdom” that teaches us that we live in a world of lack and that the competitive mindset is the prevailing way of relating to others in the world, I cannot be that way. I feel compelled to do what is most aligned with human flourishing without distinction. In part, I came to this way of being through the teaching that reminds us that, just as the sun shines on the weeds as well as the flowers, so should I when it comes to giving myself fully to the call to service. And so, this is why I say that I work for your organization, community, family, you etc. and you can’t stop me.
I have been writing for years. And when I share the ideas that I am contemplating, I do so as if someone is paying me to do it. When I read, I do so with the thought that I am doing research to help me have the right information I will need to serve someone else at another point in time. When I go through experiences, whether desired or undesired, I think of how they may better equip me to relate to others both in their joys and in their sufferings. When I try new things, I do so knowing that one day, I may have an authentic encounter with someone whose heart opens up when they hear the words, “Me too!” and it reminds them that they are not in this world alone. And I do this not because of any reward, but simply because I know that despite the factions that we have mis-created among us, when it comes down to it, we are all truly in this human enterprise together.
I am certain that each and every person–to include you dear reader–is an unrepeatable miraculous event with the potential to gift all of humanity with a treasure that only you have the key to. And the work of a funtional society is for the members to do everything they can to create the conditions for folks to discover that treasure and facilitate the distribution of their unique gifts to as many others who can benefit from them. I do not believe there is lack. I simply believe that too many of us are withholding our gifts, waiting for permission to be the person we have the capacity/potential to be. Well, I give you permission as a fellow traveler on the journey of self discovery who has been fortunate enough to have people see things in me before I could see them in myself. They worked for me. And I work for you. And there is nothing you can do to stop us. So join us in creating environments for human flourishing by working with us for all of us.
*As far as I know, I made this phrase up as an illustration.