Synergy is not a term that is in common use among the general public. In many ways this is amazing because it is the underlying principle of our existence. Synergy simply means working together and refers to the results of two or more elements joining together to produce an outcome that is greater than what would have resulted from the sum of their individual actions. In general, the synergistic results are dependent upon the degree of harmony that exists between the elements.
This is evident throughout the cosmos. Quarks join together to form protons and neutrons in the nuclei of atoms and serve as the building blocks of all matter. Atoms unite to form organic molecules and life emerges. Synergy is at work in the midst of algae colonies as they differentiate various functions. Cells gather together and form complex organisms.
This principle is not limited to non-sentient entities. When humans function in a synergistic manner, they produce results that far exceed their individual potential. The greatest barrier to us living at this level on a consistent basis is the complexity of our consciousness. Because we are capable of recognizing our individuality, too often our personal interests prevent us from fully participating in relationships that are mutually beneficial.
There is a certain beauty manifested by the synergy of competitive rowing teams. Countless hours are spent developing the harmonious rhythm of a unified stroke. To the observer, these sleek vessels glide effortlessly through the water with a proficiency that is absolutely awe inspiring. The challenges of transforming eight individuals into a single entity that thinks, breathes, and moves as one is masterfully conveyed in the book The Boys in The Boat written by Daniel James Brown.
When we take time to consider it, the role of synergy becomes evident all around us. Symphonic orchestras, choral performances, ballet, and other art forms draw audiences into the harmony of the productions. The unified focus of the individuals seems to blend into a single field of consciousness that can be experienced by everyone.
As we consider our cosmic origin and the role that synergy plays in our human experience, we are challenged to reflect on the implications for the full array of our social connections. This new perspective is subtle yet extraordinarily profound. When we view relationships holistically, it becomes evident that we are more than individuals merely associating with one another. On the contrary, we are unique elements continually establishing, maintaining, and transforming higher forms of human consciousness. Like eyes or ears, arms or legs, we each contribute to the quality and function of every relationship.
The only thing new about this perspective is being consciously aware of our social roles. Intuitively we already experience this connectivity in deeply committed relationships. Our physiological responses during our interactions and separations are actually measurable through a variety of scans and blood tests.
Altruism is the clearest evidence that at some level we already have an awareness of this human interconnection. We are capable of performing amazing acts of compassion and generosity. In the face of disaster complete strangers literally risk their own lives for one another. Though personally unaffected, individuals frequently contribute finances, goods and services to victims of tragedies in distant locations.
Why do we do this? Wouldn’t it be better to simply let them die, preserve our own lives and keep the resources for ourselves? No. Deep within us we understand that we are all part of a greater Self and that helping others is critically necessary to our collective survival.
Scientist vigorously debate the origin, purpose and mechanism of this characteristic among humans and other species. Unfortunately, it is difficult to understand altruism from a rigid adherence to a reductionist view of individuation. Personally, I believe this ubiquitous phenomenon is quite simply a natural manifestation of an instinctive awareness of the holistic interconnection that exists among a wide range of lifeforms.
We should not find this surprising. As discussed previously, the universe is engaged in a process that continually attracts entities together to produce higher levels of complexity. The fact that we are not physically joined together means nothing. Atoms and molecules form strong functional bonds with vast physical distances between them. It is quite conceivable that living organisms are capable of establishing equivalent connections through the entanglement of consciousness?
When we use expressions such as “soul mates” and “our better half”, aren’t we acknowledging that we are part of a greater self? When we suffer permanent loss through divorce, betrayal, or death, we speak of having our hearts ripped out or having a hole in our soul. Is this anguish any less genuine than what we would suffer with the amputation of a physical limb?
Because we are not physically joined when we establish relationships, our tendency is to overlook the significance of the intellectual, emotional, psychological, and spiritual bonds that are formed. However, the stability of those bonds can determine the health or dysfunction, the joy or pain, the life or death of every social union. Furthermore, through modern technology these bonds have the distinct capability of being maintained over great distances and do not require that the various members be in immediate physical proximity. Consequently, human synergistic potential is phenomenal.
As we become aware of this reality, this unified potential becomes limitless. Individually, our greatest challenge is to discover our unique characteristics and direct them throughout our social network. Collectively, through mindful collaboration, we have the power to transform and vitalize nearly every aspect of our social interaction.
How should we define synergistic relationships? Undoubtedly each social union takes on its own unique dynamics. Nonetheless, there are certain characteristics that should be present in all of those that are truly synergistic.
1. Unity is the highest priority: No issue, personal interest, opinion or desire is more important than maintaining the solidarity of the relationship.
2. Differences are resolved openly, honestly and with mutual respect: Every living organism has feedback loops that continually adjust metabolic activities to restore and maintain homeostatic balance. In a similar fashion, dialogue, compromise, cooperation and mutuality serve as the foundational principles that maintain the harmony within synergistic relationships.
3. Altruism is pervasive: Everyone recognizes that they are part of a greater whole. Therefore, the needs of others are regularly attended to with the same care one might exercised towards oneself.
4. Success is everyone’s responsibility: All members are equally committed to maintaining a harmonious internal relationship and insuring the effective achievement of the groups objectives and activities.
These are certainly not new precepts. Religion, philosophy and the humanities have conveyed these admonitions throughout the ages. What is new is the realization that these traditional sources were not merely offering esoteric niceties. Instead, they have been expressing an intuitive awareness that evolution has designed us with a cosmic nature intended to fulfill the universal principle of synergy.
What is required is a fundamental shift in our attitude towards our social unions. As a component within a matrix of collective entities, the question for each individual regarding every association is simply this, “How can I benefit this relationship?” As that question begins to replace “How can I benefit from this relationship?” we will gradually witness a widespread transformation of our society.
Over the next few centuries, it is very likely that many of the current cultural differences that contribute to global conflict will fade as a result of international homogenization. Certainly, technology and the related proliferation of information are leading the way towards that eventuality. Equally significant will be the gradual decline in adherence to orthodox religious dogmas and a continued increase of interracial births.
If we are genuinely subject to cosmic progression, harmonious social cooperation will eventually become a significant collective aspiration. The human record is full of examples of egalitarian cultures. This is clear evidence that intuitively we know that our social relationships should be based on mutuality. Ultimately, we will begin to actualize that which we are destined to manifest.