By nature I am someone who likes to keep the foods I eat somewhat separate. I know they all mix together eventually, but when it comes to eating them I like to take them one at a time, and my tastes are somewhat plain. But there are some foods that even someone as fussy an eater as I like to combine together into one because the strengths of each are better together than separate, and it is worth examining some of the implications of this for our human behaviors and the way in which we are better together as human beings than separate sometimes.
For one, I love Italian dressing. At the core of Italian dressing, along with a lot of spices, is the proper mixture of olive oil and vinegar. By and large I’m not a fan of vinegar, but when it is combined with olive oil and spices, the sourness that I normally hate becomes an advantage as it is held in check by other ingredients, and the result is a dressing I greatly enjoy, and in fact prefer to any other. The same is true in drinks, to some extent. For example, I prefer the taste of fruit punch to sodas in general (even if both drinks are probably too sugary to be healthy anyway), but I find that fruit punch sits a little heavily on my stomach, so I like to add a little bit of a fizzy soda like Sprite to make it lighter without ruining the fruit flavor I love so much. There again is a case where two drinks that I enjoy on their own are better together because the mixture produces something with the strengths of both drinks. The same logic applies to strawberries and pumpkins and cheesecake, even though all of those items are certainly very enjoyable on their own, they are even better together.
What lessons does this aspect of successful and useful blending have to our lives? Things that are better together complement each other nicely as well as having their weaknesses covered by the strengths of the other without their strengths being harmed by the weaknesses of another. The same thing can happen in human relationships when there is a basis of respect and when the working together of people allows each of them to play to their strengths without having to be exposed along their weaknesses. Ideally they could learn from seeing the success of others in areas where they are not strong, while teaching others from their own strengths, allowing everyone to provide something useful and beneficial for the benefit of a well-functioning whole. And thus those people would be better together than they are alone.
As human beings we tend to instinctively combine along these complementary lines, though we may not always be aware of doing so. Families, for example, are a classic case where there are complementary functions, and this was especially true before governments started to wage war on the labor of young people in family farms or businesses. Those who are older have much to teach, those who are younger have an eagerness to learn and much energy, and therefore it makes sense that this energy should be used to serve useful ends rather than being frittered away as it so often is. The same dynamic, it should be noted, applies in competitive sports–the channeling of energy for useful and beneficial ends. Likewise, any institution of sufficient size has a wide variety of tasks that need to be done, and therefore ought to seek people who can fill those tasks in a properly balanced way. This balance may shape with changes in strategy and tactics as well as the realities of the external world, but there is always a balance that needs to be sought and a wide variety of tasks that together help serve the desired end.
One of the tasks of a human being, therefore, is determining what sort of strengths and talents one has (along with having the drive to develop and hone them as well as find out what one can provide to a world in dire need of useful and productive labor and service), and finding a place that rewards these efforts with respect as well as remuneration. The respect we have in the eyes of others is often due to our providing something of benefit to them–and there is nothing wrong with that. No one is without worth, but the worth we have is often in knowing what we can do and doing it. If what we can do is modest, there is no need to feel ashamed, as even modest tasks need to be done for the well-being of all and are worthy of respect and honor because they need to be done. If we were more generous with honor and respect as people and institutions, we would probably find it easier to achieve that necessary balance, because people would not feel the need to reject certain tasks due to the dishonor or disapproval that they carried with them. We need to be sensitive to these matters and do what we can to ensure that we are better together than we are alone. Often we are not puzzles looking for our missing pieces, but rather we are wayward puzzle pieces looking for the picture that we belong to. Sometimes finding those fits takes an awfully long time.