Rendered Fat Content


Charles François Daubigny: The Dray Horses (1850)

"Such is the eventual nature of continual competition …"

Every horse race features a winner along with a second and third-place finisher, losers, but still paying off some bettors. The balance of the field AlsoRan, but ran out of any money. These animals lost the race. They aren't even really considered contenders. Their statistics will reflect this disappointing outing. Some of this crowd, for it comprises the majority of the entries, will be on their way up, destined for better, while others experience another step on a long and inexorable slide. It might be that the majority of every field—the entrants in every race—contribute nothing more than contextual significance. They were never destined to win, more destined to lose or not really compete, certainly never competing in the way that the reliable winners might. They could be counted as present but without distinction. They showed up without showing.

This AlsoRan state describes me most of the time.
In a few select instances, I might reliably win, place, or show, but the bulk of the time, I, too, qualify as no more than an AlsoRan, often even less. I am, therefore, primarily a loser, but a loser without severe consequences or particular distinction. The AlsoRan field doesn't profit from their presence, but their presence makes it possible for others to win, place, and show, so their contribution's not nothing. They belong to the atmosphere cast, which, while not individually listed in the program, remain essential to the production. These so-called atmosphere people set the whole tone of the context; the man in the hat exemplifies period fashion, as does the woman in the green dress. These background entities frame the stars' shots. Without them, none of the movies would make much sense. The AlsoRans are essential to the Successful production of any competition, even if, and perhaps especially if, the AlsoRans aren't really competing there. In this way, they, too, might prove Successful, there if not ever precisely accounted for.

I try to be extremely careful about which races I enter. I will not usually willingly enter a race I'm sure to lose or one likely to be dominated by a few flashier competitors. Why bother? I cannot simply decline to enter some of what others consider competitions but which I never would. I understand that for many, freeway driving qualifies as a competitive sport, the purpose of which seems to be to win something. What those self-styled competitors expect to win was never clear to me. Still, it’s equally clear that they're intently attempting to get somewhere faster than everyone else on the road, especially the non-competitors like me. Even out there, most drivers qualify as AlsoRan drivers. Most stay well within the speed limit. Many refuse to pass. But those few, under the influence of some racing metaphor, drive like Hell to get somewhere first.

It's the same for nearly every human occupation. Some seem to need to perceive their presence as a form of competition and set about striving to Succeed on those terms. These people seem the worse for their efforts, degraded by their self-inflicted strife. They seem to live compulsive lives as if someone else were in charge, but for which they must pay the price. The price seems excessive when every situation's competitive. One must feel paranoid, in danger of losing, but to keep competing anyway. For these, those who seem incapable of settling back into anything like a comfortable AlsoRan role seem always on the stage, always, always, always performing. They seem to attempt to live a life comprised only of peak experiences before falling from some unimaginably great height, after which not even all the king’s men and horses can ever put them back together again. Such is the eventual nature of continual competition, neither failure nor Success, just devastation. I pray to remain a semi-contented AlsoRan in this so-called competition.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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