Power of Unity

In this last column of my column series, I would like to describe one particular aspect from the Bubble Week on Texel. Something that can be experienced in many adventures you undertake together with others. The invisible extra 'feeling' of shared effort. The Power of Unity.

Last weeks was one of the most instructive weeks I have ever had in my time on the University. Together with 30 students from different faculties and backgrounds I stayed on Texel for a week, making extremely long days working on the finalization of the course Engineering for Sustainable Development. It was as if we literally stepped into a bubble on Monday morning and got out 5 days later.

In mountaineering the feeling of being part of the group is sometimes very literal. On glaciers you are practically bound to your climbing partners to secure yourself from falling into crevasses. But also before and after glacier crossings, when walking behind each other like a flock of elephants (that's really what I compare myself with, when carrying a heavy backpack). The pursue of a common goal, completing the planned tour safely, or making it to the summit, is what binds the group, what unites us. This is a strong feeling that enhances performances of both individuals and the group as a whole.

Engaging in a close collaboration with a group of people can be very strenuous. Many factors influence the performance of the group, but it is the notion of a common goal that is most important in my eyes. While googling on the topic I find most searches to be heavily religious, as religion is what unites many people in believing in the same concepts. But this is not the direction of unity I want to elaborate upon. To illustrate what I mean I will quote a nice short story:

"Once upon a time, there was a flock of doves that flew in search of food led by their king. One day, they had flown a long distance and were very tired. The dove king encouraged them to fly a little further. The smallest dove picked up speed and found some rice scattered beneath a banyan tree. So all the doves landed and began to eat.

Suddenly a net fell over them and they were all trapped. They saw a hunter approaching carrying a huge club. The doves desperately fluttered their wings trying to get out, but to no avail. The king had an idea. He advised all the doves to fly up together carrying the net with them. He said that there was strength in unity.

Each dove picked up a portion of the net and together they flew off carrying the net with them. The hunter looked up in astonishment. He tried to follow them, but they were flying high over hills and valleys."

Conclusion: You are stronger when you work together. This is also what I experienced in the Bubble week. Alone you are an island in a complex 5d virtual ocean (this is an inside joke), while together you can form a continent. In the final report of the group a response to a future crisis on Texel was predicted. At a certain point people will start to realize that the incorporation of technology in society neglects a number of basic human needs. Real human interaction will be one of the main values to respect after this realization. This realization could also come before a technological crisis. Human interaction does not need to be eliminated before it is valued again. It is one of the biggest contributions in making us feel human. It makes us feel part of a group. And how could this be better experienced in a week on Texel with 30 wonderful creative minds?!

Thanks everyone for a nice time!