Tuesday, September 21, 2010

the ontology of competition

the word ontology is used in philosophical discussion to identify issues as to "what" is being studied and the meaning for that "what" existing. in other words: what is it that we wish to know and what is its significance?

we're often told in sports that the nature of sport is defined by competition, and that whatever purposes we think are in sport invariably arise from the primacy of competition. competition, we are taught, is the basis upon which athletics proves itself in sport. unfortunately, however, we never really think much beyond such instruction, and allow ourselves to miss its implications in the urgency of training schedules and race seasons.

competition is not without its meanings. but its meanings are not without their consequences. and so as much as its meanings are a matter of our own choice, so too are their consequences a product of our own decision.

competition, in the sense of struggle against others, can be done for glory, for pride, for vanity, for material gain. all of which can benefit the self, to the extent that proof of being better than others can reap greater rewards to the self at the expense of those we defeat. but all of this is tied to the depths of our desires. and our desires, despite our best intentions and our best efforts, tend to be insatiable, so that the more we feed them the more they grow. and if allowed to grow unchecked, their appetites will demand every sacrifice we can offer and then ask for even more, until they consume everything in our lives and then finally turn upon the only thing that there will be left to take: ourselves. and in the end all there will left is a record of our brutality and the pain we brought to the world.

in which case, was it really worth it to leave the universe worse than when we entered? what purpose was there to our lives then? especially when all that we did was bring about our own self-destruction?

competition, however, in the sense of struggle against the self, can be done for no other reason then to be better than we were yesterday. and as much as this is an expression of desire, it is checked by the attendant realization of what we were. and what we were was something less when placed in the context of our stature in the greater realm of existence. and no matter how much better we become, the memory of that will always remind us of just how far we--all of us--have to go. in which case, our desires become transformed, so that they are no longer merely about the self, but instead about what the self can do for the one thing to which we want to give the most: others. so that in the end when we are done there will still be left a record of our compassion and the comfort we brought to the world.

in which case, it will be worth it to leave the universe better than when we entered. and this will be what gives us purpose to our lives. especially when all that we do gives to others what we give to ourselves: something better.

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