The Importance of Collaboration

In the past, group work or projects have always been stressful and greatly dreaded for me. I have a hard time with any social interaction of this kind, and group assignments or collaborations have always made me very anxious. Much of the time in the past I would end up having to do lots of the work, which would not be fair to me or my peers. When first hearing about the collaborative essays for this class, I was very apprehensive and nervous about how they would go. Although I know that I am capable of collaborating with my peers, I have never been the best at it and had never done something like this specific group work before. During these collaborations, I often had the fear that I was not contributing enough to both the writing and the conversations, leaving most of the work to the other group members. I was nervous going into the collaborations, but after doing them I felt more confident in both my abilities as a writer and as a peer to my group members. I think that both reading Morrison’s work and collaborating in this class have taught me a lot about the ins and outs of working collaboratively with others.   

Beloved, Jazz and Paradise all show different yet similar versions of the both/and of collaboration. In each novel, there are characters who do something “bad” because they see it as morally justified, or the “right” thing to do. The reason behind each of these actions is very different, yet the reactions of those around them are somewhat similar. For many people, there is no justifiable reason behind taking someone else’s life, yet these characters all feel that they did the right thing, the necessary thing. Even if they feel guilty about it, they still think that they did what they needed to do. In Beloved, Sethe killed her baby in order to free it from the awful life she knew would have been ahead of it, and she does not feel any shame or guilt for her actions despite those around her thinking she should. In Jazz, Joe killed Dorcas because of how much he “loves” her, and although he feels guilty about his actions, he never expresses that he regrets them. In Paradise, the men of Ruby attack and kill the women from the Convent because of their perceived notion of justice, and while some of them seem to feel guilty, many of them just go on about their lives as if nothing happened. They all feel the good and the bad of their actions all at once. Sethe and Joe both loved so deeply that the only answer they saw was to kill said loved one. The men of Ruby loved their town and community so much that they felt attacking the Convent was the only answer. Yes, their reasons were still completely different, but the basis of it all was love, and how love being such a strong emotion can be both good and bad. 

With these examples, it seems as if Morrison is also trying to get into a deeper collaboration, the one between our head and our heart. Sometimes we act with our heart, and we end up doing something “bad” or something that we end up regretting. Many of these characters acted in the heat of the moment, not fully thinking about what they were going to do and what it would mean in the future. While many of them do not regret what they did, it does not mean that they possibly would not have done it if they were thinking with a clearer head. Our heart and our head are always working together, but sometimes one gets lost or overshadowed by the other and things get messy. Our emotions can easily cloud our judgment, and Morrison’s trilogy is a cautionary tale of this fact. Acting or thinking with our heart is not inherently a bad thing, however if we do it excessively it can lead to our own downfall. I think that this is all a very important lesson to learn, in every aspect of life. If we act or speak without truly thinking about what we are doing, we could be hurting not only ourselves but also those around us. Many people hurt the ones they love because of spur of the moment decisions, saying something they don’t mean or doing something that they didn’t fully think through. If we can learn to not let our heart act first all of the time, we can try and avoid problems like this in our lives. Learning to collaborate our heads and hearts when making decisions is something that will be important throughout our whole lives. 

There is both good and bad in collaboration, where working together can either be a huge aid or it can be a detriment. There are many times when we feel as if we could just do something on our own it would be better or easier, but there are also times that we are grateful for the help and ideas of others. In this trilogy, Morrison gives us many characters on both sides, some who do well interacting with those around them and some who do not. In Paradise, the basic idea of collaboration is a major theme that the story is essentially based around, and many of the characters are involved in some version of collaboration at some point. The older and younger generations fighting about the phrase on the Oven, most of them unwilling to even hear the other side of the argument. The women of the Convent, though seemingly united from the outside, are often at odds with each other. The original founders of the town, figuring out the rules and customs of their society, collaborating and compromising on what is best for their new little town. With all of these examples from Paradise, Morrison demonstrates both the good and bad things that can result from collaboration. Not everyone who is part of a group actually wants to be there and collaborate, and sometimes there is nothing you can really do to change that. I think that this is something important to remember when collaborating or working with others, as well as to try not to expect too much—or too little—from each other. If we set our expectations very high, we will just end up getting disappointed or frustrated that it was not what we thought it was going to be. If we refuse to listen to one another or to see another perspective, we will never be able to collaborate and we will just end up making things harder for ourselves and others. Refusing to collaborate also inhibits us from growing. If we never even attempt to look at things from someone else’s point of view, we will never be able to grow and change as people, which will greatly hurt us in the long run. Morrison shows us how great collaboration can be if done right, but also how disastrous it can be if not. Collaboration is extremely important, not only in our professional/academic lives but also in our personal ones, and it not going well can be much more important than we think. 

We are able to collaborate with something or someone even if we do not fully like or agree with them. Collaboration does not always mean agreement—it is simply the act of working together, which I think is something that Morrison frequently demonstrates in her writing, as well as in how she essentially collaborated with Dante when writing this trilogy. For example, throughout Paradise, the people of Ruby cannot decide on what to put on the Oven. No one in town can agree, and no one is willing to compromise. By the end of the novel, someone has put a phrase on it different from either that were previously argued, and everyone else in the town seemingly is fine with it. There was no specific collaboration on this phrase, however all of the residents of Ruby essentially collaborated by compromising their previous opinions, agreeing by not arguing or saying that they disagree with the new phrase. There is no definitive conclusion or collaboration, and yet they have still technically collaborated because someone made a decision and everyone else seems fine with it. Not necessarily agreement, but compromise. While this example is not exactly how collaboration should be done in most situations, it still demonstrates an important idea. That compromise is essential to collaboration, but agreement is not. We do not always need to agree on everything that our peers say and do; as long as we are willing to listen and possibly compromise, we can still work together and create something. While it can be important to be headstrong in our opinions and ideas, it is also important to not be so connected to them that we feel we are right about everything, becoming unwilling to compromise. These are skills that I think are very important to learn because working with others is something that we will almost certainly have to do at some point in our lives. While working with other people can be very difficult and stressful at times, these ideas can make it a little easier by helping us understand that it isn’t always about us and what we want or think is right. Sometimes the ability to listen and be open are the best skills to know. I have no idea where I will be in five plus years, what type of job that I will be working, what my life will be like. However, I know that these skills will almost certainly be relevant and important to have in order for me to do the best that I can. 

I have absolutely no clue what the path unfolding before me looks like, where it will lead me to, how my life will turn out. What I do know is that collaboration will be present in almost every aspect of my life, and learning the best ways to go about it is extremely important. With this trilogy, Morrison is trying to show us all of the both/ands of collaboration: the “rights” and “wrongs,” the good and bad, the relationship between logic and emotion, the importance of compromise and of openness. While some may be harder to apply or remember than others, they are all equally important skills that everyone should learn at some point in their lives. The ability to collaborate is one that will be important our entire lives, and Morrison shows us just how essential it is to understand the act of collaborating and to be able to do it well so that we can get the best possible results. 

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