Saturday, August 13, 2011

How to lose

"How to Lose" - there's a winning title.

Looking today at a blog about being willing to experiment in a church and fail.

I think we - or I, at least - are often blind to the fact that every action is an experiment without any idea of what its outcome will be.  With group actions, like a church, you can have bigger, more dramatic unexpected outcomes.  If you use the word failure at all, it means you know the outcome you desire.  Isn't fail the opposite of succeed? as lose is the opposite of win.
To be able to act outside rigid guidelines and habits you have to have a certain degree of Don't know, don't care, an acceptance of any outcome.  What we do try to control is to be sure our motivation is kind, and not all ego.  I am now wondering what my motivation is in writing this here . . . just conversation, I think. Winning and losing has been on my mind.

I got saturated in the culture of winning this summer when our grandson stayed with us for a week.  He was going to a high-powered basketball camp here in town.  These middle-schoolers were divided into six teams that played against one another.  At the end of the week there was one winner, and five losers.  Times the number of boys on each team.  One team felt good.  The rest were losers.

While he was here, he was exhausted in the evening, and we let him watch what he liked on streaming  Netflix.  This turned out to be a show that pitted some archtypal warrior against another, like Genghis Khan vs. a Ninja, which involved a lot of young men standing around a laboratory admiring weapons, and using them to cut the heads off mannequins.  The mannequins did not then release rainbow sparkles, being all unenlightened, I guess, but gushed red liquid.  Jesus.  To me, it was very like sports, a winner, a loser.  War is the ultimate aggressive winner-take-all game.

But what if we experimented with some version of "Thy will be done" in our lives?  Here is a story I copied this morning -
Ryokan lived a frugal life at the foot of a mountain. One night while he was away, a thief broke into his hut only to discover there was nothing there to steal.

Ryokan returned and caught the burglar. “You have put yourself to much trouble to visit me,” he said. “You must not go away empty handed. Please take my blanket and clothes as a gift.”

The bewildered thief ran off with the gift. Ryokan sat naked at the door of his hut, watching the moon. “Poor fellow,” he said, “I wish I could give him this moon.”

I love the poet Ryokan, and didn't know, or had forgotten, that he was connected with this story.  I have wondered what would happen if groups of people and nations took this story to heart and said, "If you need our land, it's yours."  There would be no war.  War requires two aggressors. We do all know (I hope) that this is the recommended approach if you meet up with a drug-and-violence crazed mugger - "Hey, here's my money."

What happened when a huge aggressor, China, decided it wanted the Buddhist country, Tibet? You can look it up.  People didn't want to leave.  Laymen and monks alike felt they owned the land and buildings.  They also believed  they had rights. The odds against them were astronomical, laughable, and millions of people lost their lives, almost every sacred historical building was destroyed.  Instead of an orderly exodus, which perhaps could have happened, many many people died sneaking over the mountains.  The culture of Tibet has been methodically suppressed, and lives on only in exile. 

I am really interested in larger cultural questions, how a culture of winning is intrinsically a culture of war.  That aggressive model is replicated in the US in our political system, which just displayed itself as two armies of dunces, deeply committed to fighting it out.  And which have now begun battling each other for places on the ladder to power.

[image: a nicely Zen shirt, don't you think?  What if one day we all showed up in one?

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