A Cooperative, not a Competitive Endeavor

Our family plays a lot of board games.  Some of those are competitive, such that there is only one winner, and others are cooperative, such that either everyone playing wins or everyone loses.  We played some of both kinds over the Thanksgiving weekend, and enjoyed them all.

We live in a world that operates like a competitive game.  It prizes a lot of things that have to do with the self: self-reliance, self- confidence, self-expression, self-centeredness.  We talk about my achievements, my talents, the things I have earned.  The concern, if you will, is whether I (or I and my family) win.

Imagine how different our world would be if everyone operated from the understanding that our human existence is akin to a cooperative, rather than a competitive, game.  One where none of us “make it” unless all of us do.  One where the suffering and loss of some means the ultimate loss of all.

I recognize this expresses in different words an idea the Christian tradition has always advanced (but maybe the different phrasing is a help to some). For example, I recently read this from a homily of St. Gregory the Great, a sixth century Pope and Doctor of the Western Church:

Good will means to experience fear for the adversities of another as if they were our own, to give thanks for a neighbor’s prosperity as for our own advancement, to believe another’s loss is our own, to count another’s gain our own.

The rub, of course, is how do we convince people that no one “wins” unless everyone does? That we are , at our core, intimately connected to each other and to our God, that we truly are all in this together.

One thought on “A Cooperative, not a Competitive Endeavor

  1. One thought: maybe if we more frequently engaged Rawls’ thought experiment more often of being under the veil of ignorance in the original position we’d become sensitive to being more cooperative players in solidarity with one another.

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