Thursday, May 1, 2014

VICTORY - Finishing Last

I saw him sitting on the bench after the game, head down, weeping silently while the arena went wild with applause and cheering. The camera stayed on him for just a moment, a very tall young man, nice looking, apparently exhausted,  a college basketball player whose team had just lost their game in the United States collegiate basketball finals. 

The camera quickly swung on to members of the winning team, exultantly jumping in the air, fists raised, smiling and laughing, and the camera then panned to the crowd, cheering wildly and  celebrating Victory.

But my thoughts returned to that young man who was still feeling the sinking feeling of losing the big game. 

It brought to mind a statement by Sharon Pollock,  Canadian playwright who said: "There is nobility in the struggle, you don't have to win."

In today’s experience, we live in a world of competition, a general atmosphere of “Who is the best”?  “Who will be the greatest”?
Of course in sports that is a natural instinct.   But in business, politics, game shows, even on television cooking shows, it is always one person or group pitted against another!!    Everything seems to be a contest… a test to determine who is the smartest, most capable, most talented, best looking, funniest, and we even judge dogs to see which is the “best in show”!!  Never mind the nobility in the struggle, it is WIN or else!!

As I thought about that young basketball player I considered how tragic it is that we sometimes miss out on the important things in life, limit ourselves and others, maybe even our own children by focusing only on the winners.  This young man had played his heart out, persisted, played well, fairly and with enthusiasm, yet he seemed defeated.

It brought to mind the Iditarod dog sled race in Alaska. This grueling race covers approximately 1050 miles across the frozen tundra  from Anchorage to Nome, a trip that takes from 8 to 35 days, depending on the weather and the team’s progress.    Teams generally race through blizzards causing whiteout conditions, sub-zero temperatures and gale-force winds which can cause the wind chill factor to reach −100 °F (−73 °C).  With dogs pulling their sleds, fighting against the elements, they endure hardships all for the sake of being named the winner.

But, interestingly enough, in that race, realizing how rigorous it 
is, they also honor the last team across the Finish Line!!  Finishing last at the Iditarod means that the “Musher” wins the Red Lantern award.   Indeed, finishing last means that the Musher and dog team persevered, kept going despite the odds, kept the faith, demonstrated strength and endurance. Aren’t these the Winning qualities we all strive for?

For those who are open and receptive to lessons learned and written for our benefit by our ancestors, the Bible has some solid counsel.   Jesus of Nazareth told a story about humility.  It was about a man being invited to a feast.  Jesus said:   “When someone invites you to dinner, don’t take the place of honor. Somebody more important than you might have been invited by the host. Then he’ll come and call out in front of everybody, ‘You’re in the wrong place. The place of honor belongs to this man.’   Red-faced, you’ll have to make your way to the very last table, the only place left."

 “When you’re invited to dinner, go and sit at the last place. Then when the host comes he may very well say, ‘Friend, come up to the front.’ What I’m saying is, if you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face. But if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.”  *1

Mary Baker Eddy, writing on the subject of personal pride, the potential downfall of winners, said:  “Two personal queries give point to human action: Who shall be greatest?  And, Who shall be best? Earthly glory is vain; but not vain enough to attempt pointing the way to heaven, the harmony of being. The imaginary victories of rivalry and hypocrisy are defeats.“ *2

As we contemplate winning and losing in this human experience,  it is well to think of this counsel.  If we live our lives humbly, with the goal of loving one another, being faithful, kind, selfless, generous, with persistence and courage, we ARE winners.  Living our lives so as to be a reflection of our Father’s infinite qualities of Love, Principle and intelligence, even if we finish last in the daily contests, we will still be a Victor!!

Jesus, who when choosing between winning or finishing last in a human sense, was tempted in his own thought, the temptation came that he could be King of the Jews, that all of the kingdoms of the world could be his,*4  but he told that Satan of evil suggestion to "Get Thee Hence" and he chose to be a servant, a foot washer of his disciples,  humbly serving mankind and his Heavenly Father.  And, he was the Victor.  

In  Jesus own words: “... many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first." *3 

* 1  LUKE 14: 7-11 (The Message Translation)
* 2  Miscellaneous Writings 267:3-7 Mary Baker Eddy
* 3 Mark 10:31  


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this,'s such a relief when we finally give up that competition thing! Interesting story about the Alaska dog sled race, too...


Kaye said...

Thanks for the reminder that humility is more important than winning. This is a good lesson to teach our children, too, because oftentimes, only one person or team "wins."

kelkmac said...

Love this article! I especially enjoyed learning about the Red Lantern award.. what a great goal THAT is for us, right? Thanks for sharing another lovely post!

Melanie Jones said...

Wonderful. Such a great reminder to let go of ego, and simply express all that is really real!

kevin said...

Great article dad! You finish first in my book!

Anonymous said...

Wow what a beautiful article. FINSHING LAST....and being the winner. I saw that yougn man from Iowa State as well. HE played so hard and so well, broke his foot, and ws top scorer and felt he lost. But he never gave up. Neither did the Red Lantern Winner. We too, never give up. You are the best writer out there! Keep the glory coming, Pat. Thank you for your remembered grace ro love one another!---Merri