Scherer (co-author: Two Paths Toward Peace, 1991, etc.) and Jabs (The Heirloom Gardener, 1984, etc.) offer an erudite yet accessible guide to managing destabilized environments at home or out in the world.
The authors note that keeping family and friends safe from harm was easier to manage in ancient times, when most lived in clans of about 120 people. Even today, they say, social scientists set 120 as the maximum number of friends in a group that can provide mutual support to one another. By comparison, our contemporary social networks are vast, and, according to this book, the risk of doing unintentional harm to others is immense, whether one is running a parent-teacher association or a multinational corporation. To navigate our complicated world, Scherer, a professor emeritus in the philosophy department of Bowling Green State University, offers the principle of “cooperative wisdom,” a skill which may be learned, he says, by practicing five virtues: “proactive compassion,” which “attunes us to [others’] vulnerability”; “deep discernment,” which, in part, “deepens our grasp on what matters”; “intentional imagination,” which “reconceives what is possible”; “inclusive integrity,” which aims to “ensure that benefits and respect are mutual”; and “creative courage,” which allows people to “willingly incur the risks” of change. He and his co-author and former student Jabs guide readers through these and their accompanying practices. The book grew out of lecture notes that Scherer prepared for a graduate-level seminar, and this genesis occasionally peeks through in statements such as “Specialists become comfortable with and even attached to particular ways of doing things, and they may be reluctant to modify, much less abandon, specialized knowledge.” The otherwise conversational style, reminiscent of that of Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell in the 1988 PBS series and subsequent book The Power of Myth, adds friendliness to a serious topic. Jabs’ interjections are in hard-to-read italics, but for the most part, Scherer’s words are empathetic, compelling, and frequently pithy, as when he refers to the practices for each virtue as “exercises…that expand our moral range of motion.”
A scholarly self-help book with sage guidance and real-life examples of “cooperative wisdom” in action.