Rendered Fat Content


Jack Gould: Untitled [man standing behind small
boxing ring where two cats are pretending to fight] (1946)

" … nothing we might do in competition would produce anything more than a failure."

It wasn't until I entered Junior High School, seventh grade, that I encountered any serious experience with Completition, the erosive side of the much-touted competition some say our civilization's founded upon. Survival of the Fittest seems to be a deeply engrained notion, so firmly and widely held that we feel no compunction when we apply it to contexts within which it might not naturally hold. Darwin proposed it for physical evolution, but it's now routinely applied to social situations just as if relations should quite naturally follow the same forward paths as physical development. Social Darwinists hold the most fantastical beliefs, prominent among them the notion that competition quite naturally improves those who engage in it, when it might at best improve the winner, but only if he manages not to become a sore winner, a long shot bet in many instances.

I believe competition to be at root an evil and at best an addiction.
Under its influence, sane people go crazy and crazy people seem to go even crazier, all for the questionable reward of "winning," whatever that might mean. Often, winning means nothing. It bestows no tangible reward beyond what are called 'bragging rights,' which often means the privilege to become a sore winner and rub some loser's nose in their designation. Fierce competition seems to produce nothing much besides ferocity.

In seventh grade, what were once games became complicated by umpires and score keepers. Pecking orders emerged. I tried to engage but found the play way too hard of work to feel very rewarding. I quickly learned that the way to win involved choosing not to play, for Completition seemed designed and destined to turn every competitor into a loser after encouraging their worst instincts to convince them that they were meat eaters. I still flee when sensing a competition forming. I will not play those games.

I acknowledge that living this way prevents me from experiencing very much in the way of conventional success, the kind that comes from somebody else losing something. So much the better for me. I used to play racquetball with a co-worker, but I insisted upon a simple scoring convention I labeled Zen. We'd both begin winners, with the score tied at zero to zero. The game went downhill from there before we both became losers, when one of us accumulated twenty-one points. Then, we could revert to winning again before degrading ourselves into losers again. Little gloating resulted from employing this simple convention. We both experienced Success and we both accepted failure and, more important, we both understood that nothing we might do in competition would produce anything more than a failure. That was given. Still is.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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