The world revolves around competition. Every part of our existence is shaped by competing ideas, values, and relationships. No matter where you live, big city or small village, you will find competition. It doesn’t hide, it isn’t intimidated, and it is influenced by what happened yesterday. Competition is engrained in our culture, ways of interacting, and even how we see our self. Ironically, even cultures which profess to have abandoned a competitive framework struggle and fight for acceptance.
As I walk the streets of New York I find myself drowning in a sea of competition. The place where competition is most intense lies in the sea of ideas. Which idea is the best? What idea holds our attention the longest? Is there one idea at the top of the heap?
The questions may seem trivial, after all why can’t all these ideas exist together? Isn’t there a range of good ideas that will lead us to a world of peace, happiness, and tranquility?
The notion of a universal set of values we can all agree on is appealing. Yet there is a simple flaw at the heart of the uncertainty. Doing what is best for “self” is not always consistent with acting on behalf of “community”. As I examine the competition it does appear to be a dividing line. Ideas appear to fall into two camps. First, ones that support, nurture, and revolve around the individual. Second, quietly sitting in contrast, are ideas that only occurs in the context of community. People see themselves not as isolated individuals but as members of a larger community. Values such as compassion, mercy, and unconditional acceptance do not automatically fit with individuals winning in the game of life.
Isaiah noted that in his day that he saw the winning side. “God's right ways will put Zion right again. God's right actions will restore her penitents.” (Isaiah 1.27) I believe his view is just as valid today as it was then. God’s view, based on community, will win. Yet competition continues. I pray for community. We can make the difference.
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