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Wednesday, July 18 2001

Competing

The first movie I ever remember discussing with a peer was Stars In My Crown, which a quick Google search reveals was released by MGM in 1950, so no doubt I was 8 or 9 years old at the time. The peer was my neighbor Butch and the setting of the discussion was appropriately church (at Belsano's "lower" church). Moreover, although it was undeniably superficial, my mother probably agreed to a rare family movie-going outing that Saturday for that film because its title is a "Baptist" hymn title and the central character is an old-time preacher.

I relate all that because nostalgia is the coin of our realm here in the Jonal, but the reason for remembering the movie and, especially its title, is that it suggests that spiritual life has its own competitive aspect (the movie title is based on a common belief that spiritual attainment affects eternal rewards [stars in crown]).

In fact, no less an authority on spirituality than the Apostle Paul says as much: "Don't you know that those who run in a race all run but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. And all who compete for top place must be temperate [pacing himself?] in all things. Those [in a physical race] win a perishable crown; we [who compete in the spiritual competition] look for an imperishable one," 1 Cor. 9:24-25 (my paraphrase; interpretive elucidations in brackets).

On one hand as stated yesterday, I disdain competition and I'd like to think my motives behind that stand are pure (though no doubt are less than that). Competing with your neighbor seems on the face of it less than loving your neighbor. How can you be striving to best him and in doing so humiliating him if you have his best interests in mind? (Complicated answers that come to mind should be disregarded.) To me, this is the second most compelling reason I loathe any kind of gambling; desiring to be a winner entails wanting that all your fellow gamblers be losers.

On the other hand, I love stories about old-time New York, for example, when the formidable Jewish minority was largely pious and their gentile neighbors competed with them to be even more godly. Obviously, there is much room for abuse in spiritual competing, and there are many who've seen nothing but abuse in the "spiritual people" they've known. All attempts at being spiritual appear hypocritical to them.

The trick is to be constantly becoming a better man/woman while never wanting to be "better" than anyone else. So the competition is with your self, or your carnal side or what St. Paul calls "the old man."

This line of thinking probably is the foundation of my preference for athletic pursuits like swimming and running, where I competed with no one but my "self" of the day before. I've recently taken up a little bodybuilding, partly because a lot of experts on geriatrics say weight training is especially effective in older people and even more because some friends at my club have offered free advice on what to do and how to do it. Every week I press to do a little more than I did the one before; though I work out every night except when I'm out of town, some nights are better than others, so I aim only that every week be a little better, cumulatively, than the one before.

Many people, possibly even most, would find great motivation in doing such exercises in a competitive spirit: "how many ab curls can you do? I'll do five more!" I don't find that objectionable for anyone else. It just doesn't work for me.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Whose?

Did you ever notice: If you put the two words "the" and "IRS" together it spells "THEIRS"?

Sent by Mike Harrison

Control

Let us realize that what happens round us is largely outside our control, but that the way we choose to react to it is inside our control.

Sent by Anonymous

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