Friday, July 27, 2012

The Olympic Opening Ceremonies Offer an Alternative to Competition

Ever since the last Summer Olympics opened in Beijing 4 years ago, people have been wondering how the next host city could possibly hope to top Beijing's spectacular Opening Ceremonies. Perhaps nobody wrestled with that question more than the Brits responsible for organizing the 2012 games in London, and most of all, the director of the Opening Ceremonies, Danny Boyle.

Boyle realized that he could not "outdo" China in size, scope, or spectacle. In some way, I imagine that may have been a relief: eliminating the option of competing with Beijing frees Boyle to focus on creating...he was chosen for his creativity, after all!

And what was Boyle focused on creating, if not something bigger, louder, flashier or otherwise more impressive? The only thing he had any hope of doing spectacularly: embodying what it means to be British. Indeed, nobody can be more British than the British. If he was able to somehow encapsulate what it means to be British, the production would be a success.

Personally, I think he succeeded at this goal. After all, where else could they have a Queen (alright, a stunt double) parachute out of a helicopter with a fictional secret agent (James Bond)? However, I'm more interested in what we can learn from this achievement, on the smaller scale of our own lives.

It seems like much suffering, insecurity, frustration, and conflict arise from our attempts to compete with one another - to outdo everyone else at whatever our society privileges (e.g., money, fame, status, influence, achievement). This kind of competition is problematic not because it's wrong to want these things, but because of three facts of competition: (1) nobody gets to be the best and stay the best - success is transient; (2) nobody is best at everything, so even when you outdo others in one area, you're sure to be able to find other areas where they outdo you; and (3) pursuing superiority in one, or even a handful of areas, means that you have to neglect other areas of life, which may not offer superiority, but perhaps offer more fulfillment.

It is entirely more successful in the end to strive to be the best in an area where we will always be best - being ourselves. Embracing who we are - our unique qualities and histories - is more fulfilling, fosters more security, and garners more respect than competition could ever bring. Living authentically is the only way we "win."

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