MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS: The problem with competition in a Oneness world

competition-american-idol. Image american idol competitionIn an engaged community—a world of Oneness that the mindful dream to create—the need to compete in any form is a dichotomy. Being better than another in anything—beauty, sport, wealth—negates the principles we aspire to and removes any attempt at lasting serenity. We can meditate until the cows come home, but that stress required to win, the gut-screaming need that gets the adrenalin pumping in order to attempt to prove ourselves better or more beautiful than our fellow man, has to be there. It’s what helps us move in situations of crisis to ensure our survival, it’s what helps some achieve the seemingly impossible—jumping over chasms, lifting humungous obstacles off a hurt creature. It is for our protection and survival.

My team won! Are you going to watch the match tonight? Who do you support to win? Who do you think will win the Miss Universe? Who should win… this that anything everything? Don’t you enjoy sports? And my answers or comments to each read like this: that means someone lost? No. No one. No one. No one. No.

Boxing appals me, as does wrestling. Beauty competitions leave me stone cold and the comment “let’s see who wins” has me waving adieu. But I do enjoy watching someone clear a billiard table or smash balls against a squash court wall… but alone… pitting themselves against themselves, or in fact, simply disappearing into the skill of clearing the table—a form of meditation. Not trying to beat someone else, not scoring points, not setting out to hurt another as in ice hockey or soccer or rugby—just doing it for the sheer joy of doing it.

I have two sons who are sports fiends. They used to play rugby, cricket and hockey in their school days and one of them was in the school cadet band. I cringed watching the games. When someone was writhing on the ground the first thing I did was search the field to see where my son was and if he wasn’t standing, I would watch in distress until he either got up, or was led off the field to my waiting arms and often a hospital. School cadet band competitions were months of planning and practicing, weeks of washing and ironing and polishing, and the tension and palpable antipathy was horrendous—and that between the parents of the competitors!

competition-iron-man. Image Iron Man swimming leg“I didn’t make the team… I’m not good enough… the coach said I must sit this one out… I didn’t win! I won! I made the team! I came first!” I’ve heard more times than I care to think of and am still hearing it among my friends and family. The “children” now grown and with children of their own, mountain bike, compete in the Iron Man, run marathons and, while I congratulate them on their achievement, I ask why? “Just because” is the usual answer. We don’t do this to win, we just to do it. Then why are they delighted when they win a medal? I really need to discuss this with them, but perhaps they’ll eventually discover it on their own.

Magellan just did it. Einstein just did it. Jackson Pollock just did it, as do myriads of other humans every day. They follow a star, an idea, a dream, to see where it takes them just because. Not to be the first or the best, that just happens by the way. Mark Twain didn’t write to be published, he simply wrote to alleviate a need in himself to put words onto paper, in awe—or other—of what he saw and experienced.

But humans, for some reason, feel the need to prove themselves better than another. Someone must win, therefore someone must lose. Then they get home after competing or watching a game, or cheering on a winner, and blissfully state “we are all equal, we are all one” and hit the yoga mat or meditation pose. Are we being serious?

I’ve often been asked why I write, and my response is, because I can’t help myself—it’s an incurable, wonderful disease. It’s a need in me to express whatever is going on inside me. It helps me gain perspective, it helps me relax, it helps me make sense of things. I can write my sorrows without weeping all over an uncomprehending shoulder, I can spout my anger without raising the ire of a crowd, I can describe the beauty I see without having another say, “It didn’t look like that.” But, do I want to win a Pulitzer Prize? Absolutely not. Do I write to publish? No, I write just because. I’m delighted when something is published, but it’s not why I do it. Do I expect to make money from my writing, or win something, or become famous for a small fraction of time? Heaven forbid. It would remove all the joy from writing, force me into a position of making each piece better than the last, more erudite, more pithy, more clever or funny… than someone else’s.

And when I travel, it’s not to be the first to go to a place, it’s simply because I want to see. If I happen to come upon some deserted, unfound place where man has yet to set a foot, I will definitely keep silent.

competition-animals. Image men riding elephants in a polo matchCompetitions are degrading and inhumane. We humans not only compete with each other, we force animals to do so too, with us or on their own. And we even have the gall to pit ourselves against lesser species… mostly with equipment and then only to see who caught the biggest fish, or who shot the largest lion, or wrestled the most dangerous crocodile, or extracted the largest tusk. The loser? The animal. Always the animal.

We have to try our voices on American Idol, rather than simply enjoy singing for the sheer joy of singing. We must contend in So You Think You Can Dance because we have some ridiculous need to gain approval for something visceral that brings us joy and release. And when things go the other way? When we’re hissed at and degraded, how do we feel? And, hissers and degraders, what about you? Does it make you feel good? Better? Stronger? More at one with the madding crowd? And when you’ve finished hissing and booing, do you go meditate or sit in contemplation until the next time?

If we really believe the words of our mouths that “we are all equal, we are all one” then surely we should be walking our talk. It’s definitely not the popular route, nor the easiest—telling a friend you don’t cheer on a winner, or support a team, or watch a match means sometimes losing huge chunks of companionship time, the beer, the popcorn, the barbecues to weep or exalt—and is mostly met with a “Say what?!” But it’s the one of our truth.

No one is better than another, simply different. We are all one, and the so-called “winner” or “loser” we see in others exists within our very own self. It’s a change of perspective, a drastic one, but it is the one of enlightenment, the one of freedom.

“Real learning comes about when the competitive spirit has ceased.”—Jiddu Krishnamurti


by Jane Olivier
Posted by × May 10, 2013 at 2:34 AM


  1. I agree mostly with what you’re saying, but there’s a couple of issues I have here. First is that competition doesn’t have to mean anything. It can be totally friendly, fun and enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong, hitting a ball against a wall can be quite enjoyable. I play table tennis and I much enjoy hitting the ball against a wall. It comes back so fast and I almost enter into a trance of back of forth ball smashing, but playing against someone opens up that unknown factor. Unlike playing against a wall, humans are unpredictable and make a game more engaging. And it doesn’t have to be competitive either. You could play without keeping score.

    Lastly, I’m not a sports fan for some of the reasons you mentioned as well as it being a massive waste of money that could be going somewhere else other than inflating nationalistic pride. But it does serve at least one good purpose. Imagine what the world would be like without sport. Take the Olympics for example. Countries get to strut their stuff with the whole world watching. If a nation really has something to prove here’s a mostly harmless way to do so. The alternative could be much worse.

    • UB, I cannot agree with you regarding the Olympics. The cost to competitors, hosting nations and all involved is horrendous. Sure, a lot of hype is made about how the infrastructure will assist the host nation, but that’s nonsense. I was in South Africa when they won the bid to host the 2012 Olympics, and during the time of massive construction. Now drive past these edifices to “good” competition, and then travel through the squatter camps. All that has changed is the edifices are used for more sports for those who can pay to go and watch, and the squatter camps spread out further and further.

      • The Olympics are riddled with problems, there’s no denying that. I’m just saying there’s another side to the Olympics that can serve a purpose. And that applies to other sports as well.

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