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There were twenty-five people at our human development meeting today, and the conversation was centered on the concept of competition. My basic strategy in groups is to talk no more than my percentage of time, so for two hours it would be about 120 minutes/25=4.8 minutes. The conversation went well, as is usual with this group there were many deep and well thought out world views, and everyone was getting high on talk. I love conversations where there is disagreement about fundamental world views, because it stretches everyone’s mind and morals. As dangerous as this type of conversation sounds our conversations are always polite, and at the end there are lots of hugs and extended personal conversations.

We discussed the American tendency to compete over everything, and we agreed that that world view seemed to be aimed at winning every encounter. Why? Was winning a way to validate one’s personal identity, or was it just anxiety of not being noticed? What is success anyway? It’s better for me if there is going to be a game that I win and you lose. We discussed autistic children, and the difficulties of coping with them and loving them, and one of these coping adults said, “They try not to adapt those kids’ ideas to their own, but to adapt their ideas to the kids.” That seemed to work better, and allowed the kids to expand into their own mental world view. That world view had its own feedback and they eventually organized themselves into functioning human beings … just like the rest of us … sort of.

There was a story told about an African child that ran to some food that his whole group was racing to get, but when he got there first he didn’t eat any of it. When asked why he didn’t grab up as much as possible he said, “How can I be happy if I take the food and make my friends unhappy?” I asked the group if anyone had ever been in that social situation and took as much as they could. There were a few moments of silence and no one spoke up, so I told a story of something that happened because of me almost sixty years ago, where accidentally and without knowing what I was doing I put nearly all my classmates and friends at great risk of losing their careers, and some did. It was a simple competition kind of event, but it was disastrous for them. I still feel bad about it, and declared to this group that if I could go back I would intentionally come in dead last, because I could endure the loss and they couldn’t.

I guess I am getting better about telling short stories, because that time and another time the grouped clapped for me. That was so strange that I said, “The only other time clap ever came my way, I managed to avoid it.”

The second clap was for my reciting my sonnet, The Goal of Marriage.

 

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