To exist is to live. To coexist is to live together. No nonsense, simple as that.
Often in ecology, coexistence results when population of several species depending upon the limited resources manage to exist together in harmony. But this theory of coexistence comes in contradiction with the competitive exclusion principle, which states that complete competitors cannot coexist.
Competitive Exclusion Principle & Paradox of Planktons
In ecology, competitive exclusion principle tells us that two species competing for the limited resources cannot coexist at constant population values. This comes in line with Darwin’s principle of Natural Selection, or more easily known as “Survival of the Fittest“. This principle describes the belief that only those species with a strong desire to succeed and the ability to change as conditions change will survive the long run.
However, there is one big exception to this ecology’s theory – “The Paradox of the Plankton“. It describes the situation in which a limited range of resources supports an unexpectedly wide range of plankton species, contrary to the competitive exclusion principle. Planktons (particularly the phytoplankton), even though competing for the same resources, are still diverse at all phylogenetic levels.
This gives us an understanding that if we – human beings – can use our conscience and rationality, we can coexist in peace and harmony as well.
Coexistence in Humans
We are told each human being is different, and it is true as well. We are all different at various levels. We are different by outlook, thoughts, habits, ideology, personality, talents and so on. This is where we compete on. We try to look better than others, think critically than others, establish better habits, and leverage our talents in a different way than others.
However, in between these competition, we tend to influence and impose our ideology on others while completely discarding theirs. This is where we cease to coexist.
As a “superior” living beings, we humans can share resources for the survival of many. Charity, donations, aids, and grants have been an important culture within humanitarian sectors. This principle of sharing comes from understanding and realizing the need of others, and sacrificing something of our own for others. It is the same with perceptions, too.
Differing Perceptions – A Workshop Story
On the very first day of my session for post graduation students going for internships, I took a bottle of water and placed it on the floor. I asked all the participants to share their first thought upon seeing the water bottle on the floor. Different answers came up – from guessing the brand of the mineral water bottle to the banal half-full & half-empty outlook. But the point was to tell them how each and everyone of them were right. There were multiple rights, and no wrongs. It was each of their perception speaking out loud in their thoughts.
When we see anything, our neural pathways send signals to our brain. This transmission could follow any route among the 100 trillion neural connections in our brain. It is not absolutely necessary for two people’s brain to have the same pathway. This is why our perception towards same things are different – because the neural pathways are different.
Read more: Conscious & Empathic Listening
Unless we learn to respect others’ pathway, we won’t learn to coexist. The path to coexist won’t open up.
We all have different thought, opinions, ideologies, experiences, knowledge. These shapes our lifestyle, our worldview, and our outlook on life. We might come across to a completely differing worldview than ours. In such case, think, “They and I have different pathways, and their pathway is as exhilarating to them as my pathway is for me.” This one sentence can help us accept a different worldview rather than influencing and imposing our worldview on others.
Coexistence is all about “we both have different worldview towards the same thing/event/person. Let’s live in harmony by respecting each others’ worldview.”
It’s only when we get ready to assassinate others’ worldview, coexistence becomes extinct.