Wednesday, March 7, 2007

competition: life's lonliest game

"two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. for if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. but woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!"
-ecclesiastes 4:10

it struck me as peculiar that the writer assumed that we as humans naturally pick each other up when we see someone fall. it would seem that the only case the writer gives for a person to fall and not be lifted up by another, is if this person was alone. perhaps Solomon has come to expect too much from the human race. do we always pick each other up when we see another fall? do i ever pick someone up when i see another fall? perhaps Solomon has come to expect too much from me. i'd like to believe that i exude the compassion of Christ when i observe the misfortunes of others. but if i'm really honest with myself more times than not i like when you fall; when you stumble. something inside of me is excited to witness such an event. how ugly is that? how that? and why is that? why do i feel relieved knowing that your failure is laid bare before everyone? what is it in me that is glad to see your misfortune? what is so shameful is that its more than just not helping you up, part of me is grateful to see you fall...and so i keep coming back to why? why am i like this? i'm like this because im relieved to know that im not the only one who fails; that you're human just like me...

our culture is saturated in competition. i compete against coworkers to get that job promotion, with other guys to get the girl, with other people to be the coolest in the group, with you for control, with my neighbours to have the nicest lawn in the neighbourhood, with the students in my class to have the highest grades, and the list goes on. we might be the worst in every area of life save one, and we'll grip tightly to it; finding our worth in that one solitary thing that we're 'good' at. and what we start to find out is that this elaborate competition that we find ourselves slaving in, is really a twisted value system. and we keep competing with everyone to prove ourselves valuable; more important than the next person. so i like when you fail, it helps me feel as tho im worth more. and if my worth is being threatened i will tear a strip off someone else in self-preservation. it makes it hard to interact with others without measuring ourselves against them; without magnifying in our minds all of their shortcomings in hopes of dwarfing our own in distorted, figmented comparisons, elevating ourselves above them. and so deep down we are elated when others fail because it casts us in such a better light. we don't look as screwed up.

[Donald Miller, author of SEARCHING FOR GOD KNOWS WHAT, writes a brilliant chapter in his book on the dynamics of our competitive culture. the chapter is called The Lifeboat Theory and i highly recommend it]

the reality is that i know i'm not better than you. i know that i am just as screwed up and just as broken and ugly inside. but when you fall, no one is looking at my faults, my wounds, and my ugliness; no one is seeing me fall. we don't want to fall because no one helps us up. and it is such a dangerous place to be in. it is such a lonely place to be in. which brings us back to Solomon. maybe his presumption was right, maybe the only people that aren't helped up are the ones who are alone. which begs the question, are all of us then, alone? have we created a culture where the competition has made us suspicious of everyone to the degree that we place our trust in no one? see the culture of competition forces us to fabricate a false self. this false self is meant to give off the impression we want to give off but does not express who we actually are. so we're rarely vulnerable enough to let someone into the deepest parts of us because it's just too dangerous. when we compete with everyone we are close to no one. we are isolated; we are alone. that is why i hesitate to enter into someone's failure. that's why i stand awkwardly by and watch while they clumsily and shamefully recover their composer. because while i am there in proximity, close enough to lend a hand, they are ultimately alone; isolated from everyone. that is the culture we've created.

i have this belief that if we learn to lay down our competitive selves and realize that we have nothing to compete for and that we all have the same worth; if we can bravely open ourselves up in vulnerability to one another and confess our true selves, we will find the closeness and intimacy we so desperately chase in all different facets of life. we will no longer be alone and when someone falls we can reach down with grace and compassion and pull them back up because we know that they do the same for us.


NathanColquhoun said...

and here it is.
nicely put darryl. love it.

Eastman.Jonathan said...

Hey could you make me a list of all the time youve screwed up because lately ive fallen so much i think ive broken my ankle and im finding it hard to even stand up on my own.(sounds like some emo song)

But seriously man that was really well written, i liked that.

stephen cox said...

Yo Darryl, you spoke that truth well brother. A solid challenge to a culture bent on destroying one another.

May the Church bring the light in love.