Competition, is it good, bad or indifferent? I understand some educators attempt to eliminate any competition lest they damage the self esteem of their students. It seems to me that self esteem, based on nothing but groundless praise, would make for a pretty slippery slope, providing no traction in a situation where self confidence was necessary. Children may be easily fooled, but as one develops, and can think for themselves they are likely to disdain, or even resent what they recognize as false flattery.
To be obsessed with proving you are the best at something can also be a fruitless pursuit. To be the best, is at best, very temporary. How about just getting to where you have learned to do something very well? That's where most people who apply themselves get.
Life is a tenuous experience. As we instinctively realize this we all have a degree of insecurity. I am reminded of a line from a nursery rhyme as a kid, "Run Chicken Little, the sky is falling!" Because we never know, and never can know, it's natural to want to bolster what forces we may have. It is also natural to rate ourselves with our associates, known as keeping up with the Jones's.
Competition is a stimulus to improve ourselves. If we think we are slipping in comparison, we may choose to simply give up and settle for being less, or we can get a bit more energetic and try to improve. There can be a lot of pleasure and self-satisfaction in gaining even a modicum of skill in a competitive sport without winning the championship.
When I was 60 years old, I won the club championship at my golf club. I don't believe anyone that old has ever won it before or since, even probably at any club. I relish that simple fact. Other than that, to me it was an empty victory, because there were several members that could outplay me easily, but for one reason or another they were unable to play at that time. I only competed so I could have a starting time on the days of the competition. Anybody can win if their superiors don't compete. So I won, but I was still the hacker I was before. I guess the moral of that story is, you just do the best you can and let the chips fall where they may. Nobody is ever the best, or the worst, for long. We are all good and bad at various things, that's why we need each other. We owe it to one another to do the best we can. Sometimes a verse can sum up a whole page of prose in just a few lines. I offer one here from that relatively unknown poet I know titled, "Competition."
You do a job, and work it out,
Perfection to the letter,
Then someone always comes along,
And does it even better.
At least it seems that this is so.
No matter how I try,
Some ne'er-do-well will coast along
And simply pass me by.
I guess my thinking must be wrong.
We're not here to compete.
Do orchids envy roses,
'Cause they do not smell as sweet?
In this world you must be yourself,
All this, but nothing more.
In that way you may find the cause
That you were put here for.
The dandelion stands proud and tall.
It cares not if we care at all.
It shows its face with radiant hue,
To please itself, not me or you.
So, I'll go on my merry way,
And let my heart rejoice this day.
I'll fret not am I best or worse.
I'm who I am ... and that's my verse.
Richard Westlund is a Collins resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org