I was walking around the Cyclocross Nationals venue with my husband, Richard Sachs, and we remarked that it looked like one of those giant slums in India. Mud everywhere churned underfoot. Tents, some blown over. A general look of poverty and monsoon effects. But nothing could be further from the slum reality. People spent thousands of dollars to experience this deprivation and visual ugliness. They travelled across the country, flying and driving and all for this. A mud-slung venue in a frozen prairie. (the mud is from a warm rainy night, now the front has moved out and the cold arctic air has moved in.) People want to pit themselves against others in their sport and see how they rank up. And that makes me wonder about this whole competition thing. As a species, it seems we must always be competing and engaging in that summation of competition; giving out awards. The best this, the largest that, the fastest, the slowest. I used to work in video production and I once jokingly said to my camera man that production companies could just make up an award and give it to themselves in plaque form so they could hang it on their waiting room wall, thereby giving themselves the look of credentials. He said, “Don’t think they don’t do that.”
Way back when, in cave man days, we needed to compete to survive. That, like so many of our patterns, has stayed with us, even though the necessity for it has largely disappeared.
Today, we compete to help define who we are as a substitute for actual survival. Pretty harmless behavior until competition becomes our sole definition of who we are. I was struck by that actualization as I watched Lance Armstrong’s interview with Oprah. He had to win, or to put it another way; he had to beat other people. That seems like such a lonely way to live your life.