State of Mankind

A New Way Of Thinking


I love my older brother in the greatest sense of brotherly love.  He is not only a brother, but a friend.  He has had many roles for me during our life which have included: teacher, role model, organizer, entertainer, and even fierce competitor.  In fact, our relationship was not always the closest, but I think provides a great illustration of one of the toughest subjects in the political arena–competition.  I say this is a tough subject because it is viewed so differently from people of different perspectives that it is difficult to bring each vision to the other.

My older brother is 16 months older than I am.  The closeness in age made us natural rivals at many things in our younger years.  The gap in age (and the fact that he is naturally a much better athlete than I am) made my attempts to compete with him in sports futile.  We played, and I got beat.  Every time.  Winning comes at a cost, that is there must be a loser, and that seemed to be my role.  I hated competition.  I hated sports.  I would vow never to play again, just to end up playing again, with the same results.  If that wasn’t bad enough, my brother was a natural leader and entertainer.  My friends were seemingly always more interested in what he was doing than what I was doing, so I had to compete for friends as well.

Slowly, over time and as I grew, there came a change.  I began to realize I could compete with kids my age, so I decided to practice and play.  I was somewhat tall, and learned I could play defense and rebound in basketball, simply by putting in the effort.  A few offensive moves eventually came.  My younger brothers and I began to analyze the complex game of street football and design plays that could be successful using the advantages of our knowledge of what play we were doing and even utilizing the smaller size of the younger kids.  I don’t know if I ever got to winning half of the games or not, but I learned to enjoy the competition.  I learned to put full effort into something and accept the result and realize that win or lose, I was improving.

My view of my older brother was also changing.  Rather than seeing him as a competitor and someone I was against, I began to see him as a friend who I played against.  I also realized and learned some of the things that made him great.  His leadership stemmed from a love of all people.  The poor kids down the street, the rich kids up the street, the minorities, the churchgoers, the non churchgoers, any division anyone can think of didn’t exist in his mind, and doesn’t to this day.  He is literally the friend of everyone.  I didn’t need to compete with him for friends.  I needed to be like him and I would have friends.

I also realized that while there was constantly a large crowd of kids at our house playing sports and games of all types, everyone got along really well.  Fights were few and far between.  Friendship was always grown.  This was due to his leadership and example.  He didn’t put up with exclusive groups or cliques.  Our neighborhood avoided many of the troubles that often inflict working class America because everyone was accepted and welcomed and knew it.  Competition in our neighborhood built character and friendship, it didn’t destroy it.

These are points that have blessed my life greatly.  For a number of years I played basketball with a group of friends at the local church.  We competed with all our hearts against each other, but were always the greatest of friends.  I believe there is something god-like in being able to play a game of basketball, and play to win, do your best to stop another player doing his best to score, and stop and say “I fouled him.”

My basketball career over, due to knee injury, I recently have taken to running.  My team competed in the Red Rock Moab relay a short while ago.  We knew we wouldn’t be anywhere near the front of the race, but we ran the race.  We didn’t win, but left with that great feeling of leaving all that we had on the pavement.  Near the end of my first leg of the relay, I was side by side with another runner.  Neither of us wanted to let the other win, so it turned into a 25 yard sprint to the finish.  After catching my breath, I found the other runner and offered my thanks and congratulations for a wonderful finish.  I didn’t know I could do that (run at a sprint after 5.3 miles uphill) and wouldn’t have known without that person’s competition.  The talk was friendly and we both gained more than either of us lost.

My brother and I are both raising families now and live far enough apart that we don’t see each other too often.  When we do, I am grateful to see him.  My children love his children.  We go out and play street football sometimes to invoke old memories and pass down traditions that have shaped us into who we are.  I see him sharing those god-given abilities he has as a school teacher.  I know he is inspiring young people to be better than they would be, because I know him.  We still compete, though not in the same way.  As I wrote my review of Tragedy & Hope, he read it and gave feedback.  He took the time to understand what I was trying to communicate and on a number of points suggested that I hadn’t taken this or that into account, or that people who hold a certain perspective may misunderstand what I was communicating.  This isn’t cut-throat competition, but I am grateful that he offers me competing ideas because such communication is for both of our good, and reinforces our friendship.

To conclude my thoughts on competition, I hope that I have communicated my feelings somewhat.  Many in our society see competition as an evil, the elbow from Artest knocking Harden to the floor and potentially causing serious injury.  Scrooge creating a financial empire while Tiny Tim prays for a crust of bread.  Others see only good in competition.  Apple can make a better computer.  With an I-pad or I-phone, even the better computer may be outdated.  Henry Ford’s assembly line put cars in the driveways of the common man.  Man walked on the moon. 

I believe that competition is an amplifier of the hearts of people.  The prideful society will through competition have Scrooges and Tiny Tims.  Not only will a prideful player attack another, but prideful people will, in the end, kill each other and feel justified.  On the flip side, I’ve seen a humble rich man use his wealth to create factories and good jobs for people in poverty stricken countries while donating his excess to find a cure for cancer.  I see humble working class people every week who find a way to give charitably to those less fortunate.  Competition for the humble gives the opportunity to learn and grow.  This is the basketball game where we really do call our own fouls.  We would never try to swing an elbow at our brother, but love him for helping us sharpen our skills.  Is this too high of a goal?  I say no!  My brother taught me that.

« Previous post

Leave a Reply