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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Competition Against the Self

When we use competition against another person to improve ourselves, we can make great gains athletically and mentally. Competition against the other is a strong theme in the United States culture. We use references to battles, wars, and fights to spur our development off of the real battlefield. Our school mascots are a variety of warrior symbols and predators. Survival of the fittest in the worst perversion of Darwin's most elegant idea is applied to our children and each other.

We are at the same time improved by this competition and denigrated to our base material selves. By constantly keeping our eyes and mind on what the other is, we are losing our sense of self, our true selves. I am not proposing that we remove competition with others from our culture. However, I am proposing that we recognize its limitations and that it is used too often.

Some will encourage a child to 'be the best you can be', but then follow that be encouraging the child to compare him or herself to another child not only as an exemplar but as a form to become. We don't even recognize that the two concepts are fundamentally in conflict. If I am to be the best that I can be, then I should utilize the exemplar to consider my current station and reflect on my being and compete against the self.

Each day is a chance to learn more about my current station, see inward and challenge myself to improve, a little at a time. If I recognize that within me is great potential, those myriad of gems, then I can take it upon myself to cut them, to polish them and make the best me I can be. So, I encourage students to be reflective at times and challenge themselves to improve against the self and not against the other.  Therefore, how should the home and school encourage such development and actions?  I leave that to you.

"Upon the inmost reality of each and every created thing He hath shed the light of one of His names, and made it a recipient of the glory of one of His attributes. Upon the reality of man, however, He hath focused the radiance of all of His names and attributes, and made it a mirror of His own Self. Alone of all created things man hath been singled out for so great a favor, so enduring a bounty."

"Through the Teachings of this Day Star of Truth every man will advance and develop until he attaineth the station at which he can manifest all the potential forces with which his inmost true self hath been endowed."

(Both are from Baha'u'llah, you can read the full text here --> Gleanings )

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