I was given the last word in an article in an issue of
Company. It was my last word, too. A word I actually made
up. A word I coined so I could describe to people what a "good
meeting" is like: CoLiberation.
CoLiberation is not the opposite of codependence. CoLiberation
is why we become that way. Why we seek each other out in the first
place. What we have to give each other when we are at our best.
CoLiberation is what happens when we work extraordinarily
well together. Like on a basketball team or in an orchestra, when
we actually experience ourselves sharing in something bigger than
any one who is present. This is what I call the experience of the "Big
WE." It's a corollary to the "Big ME" experience
of self-transcendence. If the Big ME is the "peak experience," CoLiberation
or the Big WE, is like becoming a whole mountain range.
I know I've experienced it in games and sports and the performing
arts. And, what makes me especially hopeful, I've also experienced
it in business meetings.
The central experience that led me to write my book The
Well-Played Game was, in fact, a game of ping pong between
my friend Bill and myself. Let me describe it to you, thereby exemplifying
example of the kind of experience I hope you will also learn:
"My good friend Bill was and is so much better of a player
than I that there was actually no reason for us to try to play
game. Playing for points was clearly pointless. So, we decided
to just see how long we could keep a volley going. It was a perfect
challenge for each of us. For Bill, just getting the ball to hit
my paddle was an exercise worthy of his years of "pongish" mastery.
After half the night of this, we managed to sustain an almost infinite
volley. We actually lost count."
That's all that is asked in CoLiberation — some shared
transcendence that made you feel just about as big, ME-wise and
WE-wise, as you can get. Larger than
life. Enlarged by each other's largesse. Beyond time. (Something
that can be achieved even in the high-stakes heat of professional
sports. See the excerpt from Bill Russell's book.)
On oneAxis we have ME or WE. On Axis Other, WE or ME.
The higher or farther out we go on each axis, the more fun it becomes to be a ME or WE. The closer in, the less.
When the WE and ME are in balance, there is mutual empowerment - CoLiberation. This is indicated by a channel, diagonally equidistant between ME and WE. Here the good meetings, the well-played games, the fun things happen.
Fun is the background, the context, steady state. Games are the rules that help us move up or down the channel, towards and away from the Bigger ME or the Greater WE.
And, corollarily speaking, those exceptional experiences of playing together or working
together, when we're really playing or working and really together. As deliciously
distracting as the philosophies and technologies of collaboration may be, when collaboration
is it's at its best, so are we.
I've been calling these moments of play and work "CoLiberating." It's
cute, because it almost sounds like something beyond "collaborating." But "liberating" is
only part of the truth. Yes, in deed, those moments in which we
have actually managed to free each other from whatever constraints
we usually impose on each other, these are truly and actually what
you would call CoLiberating.
The experience of coliberation becomes more powerful as each participant becomes more thoroughly engaged, more wholly involed, and as the group itself becomes more unified, more engaged. Given the wholeness of the self and the group, we approach something beyond CoLiberation,
beyond the game or meeting itself. Some coincidence of selves that undefines
the limits of our capabilities. A coincidence having almost nothing
to do with the game or meeting, and everything to do with the human spirit -
shared moments of unusual clarity, vivid communication and spontaneous
combustions of understanding.
It's almost silly even to have a word like this because all liberation
is CoLiberation. You just can't liberate yourself by yourself.
You can't be free if you're the only one. You can mediate, but
you can't separate. You can become one only if you become "one
As long as there is such a word as codependence — and it
makes something clear, well, then, we need a word like CoLiberation,
to make something else clear.
Just as we now understand how we can sicken a relationship by becoming
too dependent on each other and how mutually sickening things
like alcoholism and racism and spousal abuse can become, we now
need to rediscover how we can heal a relationship by setting each
other free, how mutually healing things like play
and teamwork and human relationships can become.
©1992, Bernie DeKoven
updated with edits from Chelle