There’s a scene in Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance where the main character has an argument with his friends about how fast they’re riding. They came to an agreement that his friends would go on ahead and wait for him but they could have gotten to this solution more easily and pleasantly by using a simple trick.
The trick is an idea called “arvut,” a Hebrew expression which goes far beyond mere empathy or cooperation and translates as being a “guarantor.” To be a guarantor means I guarantee I’ll be there for you with absolute loyalty, commitment and with a sense of unparalleled unity. It’s not a unity of enmeshment, where boundaries are erased.
It’s a unity of being together as distinct individuals in the same spiritual field. I look at what you need and at what I need as equally important aspects of the same picture. The picture as a whole is what interests me.
Where the togetherness of arvut is absent one of the parties can recognize a need in someone else but this recognition often comes at the expense of resentment, getting annoyed and feeling the other person is getting in my way.
Where there is arvut all the parties involved are strongly motivated to find a solution that will seek to be the best for everyone. In the situation described in the book his friends would be saying, “We want to get there already but on the other hand we can’t let your tires get burnt out.” It wouldn’t be one person worried about his tires and the other thinking about getting there. It would be both thinking about both their interests.
This way of thinking turns the other guy’s challenge or desire into my own. Instead of being a conflict of interests between two individuals it becomes an conflict within each one’s inner self. The challenge or desire of all has been internalized into all individuals concerned.
Stop and think about any conflict in your life in this way and just imagine all the interests and challenges and needs and desires being part of one big picture that we’re all in and all trying to figure out. See what happens.