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In Unity there is Strength

5Jun 2015
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In Unity there is Strength

I was recently on a weekend camping trip in the Lake District with a group of friends, hiking, barbeques and staying up late into the night.

On one of the nights we sat camped around a medium-sized camp fire, admiring the bright embers and burning wood. We began sharing reflections and stories and one of the guys – obviously in a particularly philosophical mood that evening – shared a reflection that I was particularly struck by.

It was on the subject of “being united” and his analogy (see Example 1 below) motivated me to write this article, and also add two further examples.

Example 1 – Camp fire (from camping trip)
Look closely at a camp fire. Gaze deep into the heart of the blaze. Notice how the wooden chunks provide a constant supply of fuel for the fire to consume, eating them up and spitting out red-hot embers and devilish grey smoke in their place.

Notice how the wood we’ve used to keep the fire going are in small and large chunks. The smaller pieces of wood are consumed quickly, effortlessly and without difficulty by the flames, causing them to glow, burn and disintegrate within a mere few seconds or minutes. At the same time, the larger wooden chunks are stronger and offer more resistance, often lasting for hours, their smaller surface area making it harder for the fire to destroy them.

Such is life, wherein as small units acting individually, alone and separate to our neighbours, we are broken down more easily than when we stick together, united, supporting and aiding one another.

Example 2 – Birds flying in a V-formation
At University I was once tasked with researching fluid mechanics in nature. I discovered that various species of birds have a very clever trick when flying extremely long distances in groups e.g. on migration. They fly in a ‘V-formation’, with a leading bird at the front of the group and the others trailing behind to the left and right.

Recent research [1] has shown this is because this formation significantly improves the efficiency and range of the birds trailing behind the leader, who intentionally maintain their flight position in the ‘wingtip vortices’ of the bird ahead. The so-called “up wash” of air allows the birds to fly with less expenditure of energy and lower heart rates.

Not only is it a very beautiful aerodynamic display, but also a highly efficient and practical technique in nature! The leader of the group is rotated to ensure no one bird wears out from absorbing the full air resistance for the entire journey (assuming of course they are nice to each other!)

Example 3 – 20th century politics
Have you ever noticed a pattern in the names of the most powerful and effective nation states or organisations in the world today? Here are a few:

United Kingdom
United States of America
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)
United Nations
European Union

Notice the variants of the word ‘unity’…? What did they unite?

England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland
50 states
15 SSRs (at its height).
193 member states
28 nations, possibly more joining!

I have no doubt that a major contributing factor to their success is the ability and willingness of the individual factions within the nation or organisation to put aside their differences, agree on what they had in common and proactively get on with building a better society for themselves. Read their history if you disagree with me.

(Granted there may be other cases of states that tried and failed e.g. the short-lived United Arab Republic… or successful states without the word ‘unity’ in their name… but I trust you get my point…)

individually or in society, whether it’s in family or politics, work or community initiatives, or at a local, national or international level; it seems a no-brainer that together we are stronger. However it seems we all too easily forget this when other forces motivate us to act in our narrow self-interest alone.

Looking around us perhaps we’ll notice the examples in nature, like my camp fire friend in Example 1 or otherwise, that will reinforce the message that In Unity there is Strength.

Now, just how to implement that in real life….


Written by Hassan Joudi

[1] Fly like a bird: The V formation finally explained

Credits: Picture from … 00×300.jpg

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