For the win!

What is winning? How do you win? What is losing? How do you lose? I guess it depends on the definitions you assign them. As an individual you usually win by defeating your opponent. If there are teams, you as an individual win by belonging to the winning team. My experiences have forced me to contemplate those definitions in the extreme. To think of them in the frame of life and death. If they line up directly and I die at some point, does that mean I lost? Did I beat someone that died a day before me? Did I lose to someone who died a day after me? How about two days? Three? A month? When’s the cutoff? Where’s the differentiating line? Or, what about someone born and dead before I even existed? Or before my parent’s existed? Did I beat the billions that preceded me just because of where I appeared on the timeline? Every single person eventually dies. Does that make us all losers? 

In every contest there is usually a winning party. Professional sports teams I like try each season to win their respective league championships. Sometimes they do win. Often they do not. The schools I’ve attended field various teams in various sports that also compete for various championships. I cheer for their success. I want them all to do well. I want them to win. Often they don’t. Even politically I usually lean one way and align with one party’s view but they still lose a lot. Looking at it that way, I lose a lot. But, I don’t literally play on any of the teams that I cheer for.

However, there is one team that I do “play” for in actuality. A team that just by virtue of birth I belong to. I am a member of the human team. And everybody reading this probably is too. It’s the one association that you were born with, that’s entirely immutable. No matter what sports team succeeds or what political candidate prevails, that fact remains constant. That is still your team. That is still our team. In fact, with regard to the human team, you may have been cheering against your teammates in other contests. And you may not believe you have to associate with that lowlife in this contest. But, in the game of life, this is a teammate. Cheering against them in this one contest is counterproductive as long as they might help your team.

It doesn’t mean supporting every person all the time no matter what. It doesn’t make others infallible. It doesn’t discount you for them. It only serves to reframe the issue so that you see advances as a collective win instead of just an individual victory. If someone’s act pushes the entire human species a little further forward, that helps all humans. If someone’s act ends up pushing someone else in front of a train for their own benefit, it’s a collective loss. Collective wins are to your advantage. Collective losses are at your expense. Even if you are the one person trying to win, if you do it by pushing someone else in front of a train, you hurt your team. The team that you can’t escape. The team you belong to no matter what.

When I got sick the first time I lacked confidence that I could defeat any opponent at anything. Reframing the issue provided some hope that maybe I could participate in a success. But, even after I reframed the issue, I still doubted my ability to contribute to my team’s success. However, as time has gone on, I’ve come to see that not only do we play for the same team, but my existence, and your existence, and all of us, are capable of pushing our entire species a little bit further forward. Just a little bit ahead. Bringing your own unique talents and experiences and existence to bear. Even if it’s just adding to the support of someone else who can in turn push the team forward in their own way. Maybe a way you or I aren’t capable of. And when I leave, or you leave, doesn’t determine our success or failure. That’s not what makes one person a winner. You can help just by being a good teammate. Just by helping your team.