And the gold goes to…

“Be what you want to be… and you will be awesome”… said, my son, when he was 3 years old… interjecting in some adult discussion me and my wife were having. I felt so amusingly happy… because that is exactly what we had been feeding his mind in subtle and unsubtle ways since his birth…

Today he is 7 years old and I can see the belief losing ground… He talks (and sometimes fakes) about being the best amongst his friends… in his class in school… and in almost every other aspect… And I have started feeling disappointed…

I understand he see’s the drive to compete against each other amongst all his peer group… all the time… but we do not feed him that at home… we tried keeping him in a school that does not encourage interpersonal competition at this young age as well…

But then I recollect what I am myself feeding him now… We were watching the 2016 Olympics together yesterday… I wanted to see it with him to get him interested and passionate about some sports more dedicatedly…

And there were images about athletes winning medals and celebrating… and the ones who did not were disappointed on their haunches… in despair… he hears the passionate talks between me and my wife on India winning a bronze medal and how good it was… how from nowhere a northeast Indian girl misses a medal just by a whisker… The crowd cheering Usain Bolt,  who still is first with almost a jog at the end of his preliminary heat…

And I feel confused…

Citius, Altius, Fortius… that’s the motto of the Olympics… Faster, Higher, Stronger… it’s in a comparative adjective form… but compared to whom???

I saw the movie ‘Eddie the Eagle’ on a flight I took recently… almost at the end, there is a dialogue by the best ski jumper in the world at that time to Eddie, which goes like this “I win the medal but I am not happy… for I did not do my best… If I do my best, I do not care if I come last… Winning and losing does not matter. We two are like 1 and 11, closer to each other than everyone else… We jump to free our souls… If we do less than our best with the whole world watching, it will kill us inside”…

That is supposed to be the spirit of the games… faster than your own self, higher than you ever went, stronger than you were before… and doing it with others is supposed to spur us to perform… but the goal has to be to do our best… better than before…

Celebration hence should be of ones who improve on their personal bests… praises and awards to ones who overcome grave difficulties and go to levels that would have seemed impossible for them… But the games reward and hero worship the ones who beat others… not their own self…

I have realized that there is an inherent dichotomy in the pursuit of being happy in oneself and what we experience in reality… The most fundamental requirement of a human being is self-worth… and that I strongly believe comes with acceptance from a group one desires to be in… It could be an academic group, a sports one, musical, even family or friends… anything that one sets their heart on… but acceptance by someone else… we are social animals at core… being happy in oneself denotes bliss in isolation… while we find merry in a group…

Hence our basic self-esteem is defined and determined based on the judgments of the people we choose to seek acceptance from… and that is the reality of our emotions… we seek to be seen as the best in the competition for it brings us the acceptance from others… we seek to be seen as better than the rest to be considered worthy… we seek to impress our love with overtures they will appreciate… obey rules and guidelines that will make us the good child or citizen… the list is endless… you get the drift…

And this intrinsic nature only moves towards finding happiness in itself once the initial acknowledgment from our group has been received and self-esteem established… nothing new really, Maslow said this in 1939 via his pyramid for human needs…

Coming back to reality… I realize it’s important for my son to be taught to survive and build his confidence by training him to compete in quite a few areas to a level where his peers accept him as at least one of their own if not the hero amongst them… and then once his self-esteem is established, he can be coached to focus on competing with himself rather than others…

Simply put… get to the minimum threshold to be considered worthy enough to compete in the Olympics… and then… you should get a medal if you have beaten your previous personal best… That’s what the Olympics should also do…

But then I am not going to be the flavor of the season or the darling of the masses by proposing this… for we hail the Usain Bolt’s and Michael Phelps of the world… And don’t get me wrong… they are terrific and I am nothing compared to them… But I believe a Dipa Karmakar is a bigger hero than them… just because she bettered herself by leaps and bounds and they have not!

The gold should hence go to… Dipa Karmakar!

– Written on 19 August 2016

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Viral says:

    That is an interesting perspective to competitions, it being this innate virtue which we don’t need to learn. What I ponder is, will the medal matter without the audience? Off lately I have come to the conclusion that a sport is for the person who plays and enjoys it. All the physical and mental benefits which come with that sport hones the person who plays it and it’s for every one to experience than just being a mere spectator.

    Like

    1. vdgandhi says:

      Absolutely… The game or the sport should ideally be for ones own personal satisfaction at the end of it… And if one involves themselves for the love of it then the medals won’t really matter… But for the majority of human beings competing with others gives them the motivation to exceed and pursue higher goals at the onset… Its only when it becomes too easy to be at the top that the challenging oneself or pursuing it only for the love of it kicks in… Not everyone unfortunately is an Einstein who would pursue physics even as a social outcast for its excitement… Though it’s best if one can… But I believe in what you are saying… And read the below link to see what happened when China tried to pursue it:

      http://m.rediff.com/sports/report/reflective-china-braces-for-diminished-haul-at-the-rio-olympics/20160818.htm

      Like

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