School days are the most fun-filled days for learning new things. But for most students these days could also be the fiercest days. There are bullies and rivalries and there are races to become topnotchers and dean’s listers. Students compare everything from their pencil cases to school grades. The Darwinian principle of “survival of the fittest” is a common place. The joy of learning wanes. In our schools we have first learned the harsh realities of our world: Competition always rules the day.
Honestly, it is actually upsetting to see how this paradigm of competition created so much suffering, especially since this is the governing power in every context of human interaction. We have seen the battles between politicians during elections, killings between government and rebels, and rivalries among businesses. Soap operas are spiced up with scenes of actors slapping each other, fighting over a single lover. Mainstream Japanese anime and manga are all teeming with tournaments of ego-charged heroes jousting with their equally egoistic villains. The invention of reality TV has involved ordinary people with draining patience as they trample each other to get the highly coveted prize – a game of reptilian behaviors the whole world enjoys watching every primetime. People betted on their winning player in bloody sports like boxing. Sports, be it individual or team, have become a fertile ground for competition to fare, where both athletes and audience perpetuate the wars between winners and losers.
The entire structure of our nations, organizations, and families lives out a hierarchical pattern: the one who stands on the highest owns the most resources, wields the greatest power, gains the best privileges, holds the widest control. He or she often epitomizes a conventional leader with such stronghold that dictates the fate of his or her constituents. These are all elements of competition, a culture that generated so much stress and depression among people regardless of what they have attained.
Ending the world of competition is our step to strive seeking what is common to us all – Love.
We have competed with each other in many trivial ways: wearing the best fashion; having the latest gadgets; getting the famous degrees in the most prestigious universities; investing the most expensive houses and cars; holding the most ideal positions; and practicing the most lucrative careers. Our gauge of success is based on the quantity of things and the quality of our statuses. In a competition-driven world, those who have more, live more. This is the same dog-eat-dog world numbed of true meaning and purpose of serving humanity. Instead, our competitiveness pushes us to serve our hungry, insatiable souls.
The disturbing irony is seen when we often say that we have relationships with our loved ones, friends and acquaintanes, and yet we often describe our dynamics with them as if we have lived a life with our archenemies. We relate our stories like an epic battle in which we are the heroes and they are the villains. To say that this fight with the people in our lives is a kind of relationship is a form of delusion. True relationships are naturally harmonious while complementing differences. Our society and dynamics with people are best called competition in the way they exist.
In the name of such honor, fame, power, principle, award, big prize or simply feeling good, we have fought, harmed, hurt, insulted, betrayed, oppressed, ostracized and killed each other in a belief that these goals are more important than our relationship with people. We have forgotten how precious the presence of the other is, just because we believe that it is more important for us to win or to become the best. We continuously live in the illusion that the winner takes it all. The oft-quoted Buddha’s wisdom “in a battle, winners and losers both lose,” goes against the grain in a polarized world. His ancient truth echoes the teachings of the wisest sages who walked on Earth. Until we reconcile with our enemies and competitors, our notions of winning remains futile. Competition is always a way to lose.
It is an old enigma: why do we seek to compete with each other? Its Latin origin tells an interesting story. Competere means “to strive in common” or “to seek together.” Competition’s true meaning has been left in oblivion. Our inner desire is really to be at (not to beat) one with the other, to find our oneness and to work together for the whole humanity. But we ended up in fighting and unbearable divisiveness. We must again seek together as one being. Ending the world of competition is our step to strive seeking what is common to us all – Love.