Upon further reflection…

…and because I can’t think of anything else to blog about today, I’ll revisit my thoughts from last week.

My winning attitude post sparked some additional thinking and conversation. As I wrote, I am competitive in that I love playing games and I use competition as motivation. I would much rather play a game of racquetball than go work out at the gym. I often use games of sorts to help me get thru chores. What I lack, that often goes hand-in-hand with a competitive spirit, is drive. Although being driven and motivated are viewed as positive traits, it is the combination of a strong drive to excel with a desire to compete that gives competition it’s more vicious, cutthroat connotation.

I am enjoying the simple pleasure of having stuff from my Squire grandparents on display in the family room. It is common knowledge that I have turned into my mother, a fate proving inescapable to the next generation as well (as the daughters will freely admit, at times.) It is dawning on me, however, that I may also/instead actually be turning into my father. There’s no denying my curmudgeon tendencies and I’ve recently been called out for getting too attached to my little daily routines. (Insert wide-eyed emoji face here.)

 

Simple Memories

I call my latest mantle display “Things acquired from the paternal grandparents that I can’t bear to part with.” (Full disclosure: many of these things are part of a larger collection.)

img_2813

I’m not sure why I am so enamored with the portrait of Uncle Ed. Per my perhaps faulty memory, he was the brother of my grandmother who died quite young, shortly after this photo was taken. I know nothing else about him, but his is the image that comes to mind if asked to picture either Dorian Gray or Jay Gatsby. Uncle Ed clearly deserves his own novel.

img_2815
Apologies for the terrible photo with all the reflection off the glass. But doesn’t he look positively charming, in a rakish sort of way?

I am fully aware that the next generation will view all this as simply stuff, but for me, the memories invoked by these items are a simple pleasure.

A Winning Attitude

Competition. We all know what that word means, but a google search for the definition of competition yields some nuances.

  • A rivalry between two or more persons or groups for an object desired in common, usually resulting in a victor and a loser but not necessarily involving the destruction of the latter.
  • The effort of two or more parties acting independently to secure the business of a third party by offering the most favorable terms.
  • A situation in which two or more people or groups are trying to get something which not everyone can have.
  • The activity or condition of striving to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others.
  • Competition is, in general, a contest or rivalry between two or more entities, organisms, animals, individuals, economic groups or social groups, etc., for territory, a niche, for scarce resources, goods, for mates, for prestige, recognition, for awards, for group or social status, or for leadership and profit. It arises whenever at least two parties strive for a goal which cannot be shared, where one’s gain is the other’s loss.

It all sounds so…..cutthroat and negative.

I grew up in a mixed-value family when it came to competition. My dad was quite competitive, my mom didn’t really have a competitive bone in her body. Not surprisingly, I ended up somewhere in between. I enjoy competition as motivation and I strive to do my best in a situation, but I’m not so interested in keeping score or being better than someone else. The fact that my favorite games are cooperative is definitely more in line with my mom’s attitudes toward competition and winning.

When I was a kid, I came across this quote somewhere. It struck me as funny at the time, but it has stuck with me and I realize that it captures the essence of my winning attitude.

“Win as if you’re used to it. Lose as if you enjoy it for a change.”

– According to the internet, it is attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson. (Who knew? Apparently, a lot of people who are not me.)

I realized that the more other people share my winning attitude, the more I enjoy competing with them and the more respect I have for them. Even with regards to professional athletes, I root for the underdogs who are gracious losers and I root for the superstars who are humble winners. I recoil from the gloating winners and the physically aggressive losers. I play racquetball with a man who obviously lives by a contrasting mantra which I finally put into words the other day: “Win because you are entitled and superior. Lose because of your partner and bad luck.” There is an astounding lack of respect and grace contained in his mantra and at times it’s almost enough to drive me away from playing with this group, the rest of whom are delightful to play with.

It’s not that I think winning and losing are equal. In the (perhaps paraphrased) words of Ebby Calvin Laloosh, “I love winning. It’s like better than losing.” Still, you put in some amount of effort or thought, and then you live with the consequences. It seems a simple formula. Why does it always have to be about winning and losing, gaining dominance, getting things that can’t be shared? I prefer another, more neutral definition of competition: “An opportunity to measure oneself against others.” Anyone want to play?

Simple Words

Last week I “reviewed” a book of short stories, basically by saying that it is impossible to say much or summarize a collection like that. Poetry books are even harder for me to review intelligently. So I will simply say that I loved Mary Oliver’s A Thousand Mornings. For your Wednesday pleasure, here is an especially short selection that I especially enjoyed.

THE POET COMPARES HUMAN NATURE
TO THE OCEAN FROM WHICH WE CAME

The sea can do craziness, it can do smooth,
it can lie down like silk breathing
or toss havoc shoreward; it can give

gifts or withhold all; it can rise, ebb, froth
like an incoming frenzy of fountains, or it can
sweet-talk entirely. As I can too,

and so, no doubt, can you, and you.

Still Marching On

March: Book Three (March, #3)

I recently finished all three books in the March series by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell. These graphic memoirs chronicle the role of John Lewis in the civil rights campaigns of the 1950s and 60s. They are set against the backdrop of President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration and as I continued to read Lewis’ story, I was increasingly aware of how monumental an occasion that must have been for Congressman Lewis who was a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Lewis  began his activism in the late 50s by organizing and leading non-violent protests at movie theaters and restaurants in Nashville to force them to admit and serve people of color. Although their protests were peaceful, they were met with violence, beatings, and arrests.

It is hard for me to believe that that level of discrimination was commonplace here in America within my own lifetime. And yet…

Too much our society, which was founded on the TRUTH that all men are created equal, is still controlled by people and organizations who BELIEVE that they have moral superiority in deciding  what is just and proper and right.

The civil rights movement is a part of US History that all Americans should be more familiar with. If you want to understand the Black Lives Matter movement, Colin Kaepernick, lawsuits on LGBTQ discrimination, and other current issues, you should begin learning more about the times leading up to the civil rights and voting rights legislation passed by Congress under LBJ. Visiting the LBJ library in Austin and reading the March books are two enjoyable and informative ways to start. I was talking with a friend the other day who said that they were sure that Martin Luther King, Jr would be pleased with how far America has progressed in the decades since his assassination. I’m not convinced. Ralph Abernathy, another prominent civil rights leader who died in 1990, chose for his tomb this simple epitaph, which I find incredibly sad: I Tried.