harmony and disharmony

One thing I’m really interested in is the value of competition and struggle. According to someone like Nietzsche, we are at war with ourselves and this internal conflict is the source of value in life. We overcome our flaws, and in doing so, engage in a noble struggle against our natural tendency toward mediocrity or passivity.

Buddhists on the other hand think that this view of life is completely misleading. They see effort and achievement as illusions that distract us from living in harmony with ourselves. Better to get into contact with our natural power than to manufacture a false energy.

At this stage in my life, I side with the Nietzschean, but I’m not sure for how long, because I can see both sides of the argument. Here is one shot in favor of the Nietzschean. The Buddhist sees accomplishment as an essentially selfish and ego driven pursuit that separates people and puts them into conflict with one another.

However, I don’t see it that way. I think of excellence as an essentially group production, like a house built by many workers. Take a race. Sure, one person has to win, and they get the glory that comes with it, but their glory is dependent on the other racers. Without competitors, there is nothing to overcome and so no glory. Each winner must have a defeated loser. But notice how this does not set people against each other. After a game, the winner and the loser both respect the other for making an exhibition of human potential possible. The brilliant last second goal is impossible without the dedicated defender that is dead set on preventing it. But competition is a group production in another way: each person spurs the other to do better. Your teammates spur you to practice harder and your opponents spur you to play harder, in that sense, there is no difference between your team and the “other” team. Sports is a reciprocal process whereby each competitor brings out the best in the others. Together, the value of the game is created.


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