BELONGING

If you hang out with people who don't share your values and your passion, your real peers cannot find you.

Cultivating your Individuality is good for others because it creates families, communities, tribes and nations that are more than a mere sum of their parts. Diversity is the breath of life. So some times you'll find it necessary to exercise what is unique about you in concert with others. Networking your connections matters.

Birds of a Feather

My wife and I enjoy sitting on our porch watching rabbits and quail working our orchard for seeds, insects and apples. A few nights ago, a lone quail fast-walked over to an apple and began pecking it. That wasn't typical—most belong to a covey of adults and chicks tagging along behind their mother.

Phrases like covey of quail, herd of buffalo, pack of wolves and flock of birds are common, but my Google search for others surprised me. Geese, for example, gather in gaggles and three kittens are a clowder. And I forgot that fish go to school! Wikipedia says octopuses consort in a consortium, platypi gather in puddles and more than one skunk is a "surfeit" of skunks. I don't know who made these names up but I agree with that one. One skunk is more than enough!

Animals probably don't care what we call them. But people do, so it's wise to avoid potentially offensive labels. Why risk road rage by calling somebody an Idiot when you could say something less offensive like "You got your driver's license in a box of cracker jacks, right?"

I was surprised to learn that most women prefer to be called women, not ladies. "Good morning, women." Who talks like that? And some euphemisms stretch the truth. At my high school, for example, Hank was a great guy and a good janitor. But I can hear him saying, "Sanitation engineer? That's a bag of baloney, Billy." And I would have applauded him for using the correct name for more than one baloney.

Some animals, mostly mammals, live in groups. I don't know why octopuses gather in a consortium but do know that coyotes cooperate to confuse and capture prey and that fish swim in schools because there is safety in numbers. Maybe that's what they teach in their school.

Humans have taken cooperation beyond that of other animals. Some researchers say our evolution was a direct result of our social, group behavior. "It takes a certain strength to live in civilization," wrote Shawn Hubler, "for it is community with its slings and arrows that is man's true Darwinian test."

Birds of a feather flock together. So like other animals, human cooperation tends to be isolated to small "in" groups. Three is not a crowd in a covey of quail, but I have seen males angrily chasing each other around an apple.

Human disagreements can be more destructive for the "in" and the "out" groups. History is a grim reminder of how dangerously exclusive some groups can be. But history is also the story of people cooperating with "outsiders" in mutually beneficial ways.

You don't see that very often on the Six O'Clock News. So tonight my wife and I won't be watching the News. We'll be watching our covey of quail and hoping to see that lone quail fast-walk into his "in" group. Belonging matters.