February on our Slo Coast of California is a great time to emphasize the importance of relationships. And, as luck would have it, Mother Nature has, with lichen, provided a wonderful example of how to have a successful one. Lichen? Yes, lichen — the result of a mutually beneficial partnership between algae and fungi.
Lichen shows us that surviving and thriving, growing and evolving in a relationship means putting energy into harmonizing with the characteristics of another. Liken lichen to a choir that sings a song, or an orchestra that performs a symphony. Each voice or instrument matters. Each individual has a sense of belonging and is trusted and held accountable to communicate or play their part. Yet no one person gets the glory for the accomplishment.
Oh sure, Cupid takes credit. But as some of us are aware, desire alone is simply not enough to sustain a healthy relationship. Not only our intimate relationships but our important associations worldwide require more than longings and hopes. Sometimes, as with the algae and the fungi that make lichen, it takes teamwork to create something beautiful.
So, how do we inspire a cooperative effort, a togetherness where individuals complement one another? How do we get a team or partnership to flourish? Well, start with fairness. When all of the parties of a team or a relationship — including self — receive equal opportunities and are held to the same standards, cooperation is far more likely. Fair treatment means there is an absence of prejudice or favoritism. And when discrimination does not exist the stage is set for a pleasurable performance. Much like a melodious arrangement is music to our ears and nourishment for our souls.
When each person in the group, couple, or team abandons their competitive ego in favor of equality, there's room for support and encouragement. When we accept our companions or our colleagues - as they are - we can focus on and appreciate their attributes and access their strengths. When we celebrate a person's unique talents, we can tap into that which contributes to the partnership.
The objective is to keep our relationships alive and well. With kindness, respect, and patience we allow for and promote growth. With a consistent commitment to be cooperative and flexible in our relationships we are better able to endure the challenges — the sour notes — that can accompany them.
If the participants in a partnership willingly practice cooperation, we may achieve delightfully pleasing outcomes. To serve a greater purpose than our ego-oriented selfishness is to cultivate harmonious homes and compatible communities. And, maybe even a peaceful planet.
Like lichen we too can be brilliant examples of what the spirit of cooperation can create in our lives. Think harmony. Agree on a common effort. Work together toward a common goal. Then go team!