The afternoon sky was grey, overcast with heavy clouds. The icy, North wind penetrated the twelve year old boy’s arms and legs, as he stretched and massaged his muscles to prepare for the start of the 100-yard dash. The boy and five others settled in for the start of the first contest of the all-city track meet. “On your mark, get set…” the starter’s pistol cracked its report.
The boy automatically focused on the dirt track’s lane markers. There was nobody on either side. The boy felt at one with the motion of his legs, buttocks, arms, and shoulders. Air rushed in and out of his lungs at hurricane speed. A hot pain settled behind his ribs. No thoughts bothered his head.
The boy barely noticed the finish line. Then he slowed to a trot. The breath began to ease. The public address speaker cried out his name. The boy was victorious.
The boy was me, almost 49 years ago. The win was the only significant athletic victory of my life. I had high hopes that winning a contest in the track meet would change my status within my thrice-weekly phys. ed. classes. I was the kid who was always chosen last. I dreaded physical education because of the humiliation and shame. The track meet win changed none of that. It wasn’t even acknowledged by my teacher.
However, the victory did change the opinion I had of myself. Whenever I felt sad and alienated, all I had to do to lift my mood was to look at the framed certificate that validated my win.
Have you ever pondered the order of nature? Did you notice that nature is not the superficial image of chirping birds, flitting butterflies, and fuzzy bear cubs? Birds breakfast on worms and insects, butterflies eat flower nectar, fuzzy grizzly bear cubs grow up to be fearsome predators. Have you noticed that every living thing eats other living things? All of us are prey and predator in one way or another. At the end of each day, we are victorious.
As a nation, we might find glory in victory. But we often forget that in victory, we breed the resentment of the vanquished. In that victory we attract allied nations who wish to cast off their minion status. While conflicts are inevitable in the world and society, we will find ourselves at war from time to time. We seem to have forgotten that war is a necessary evil. We must never forget that war is evil, regardless of how much we might believe how necessary it might be. We must remember to be humble if we are victorious in war.
In The Art of War, Sun Tzu said that anger and greed are the main causes of defeat. The best leader is one who is calm, reserved, and unemotional. The best warrior is not the one hungry for vengeance nor the ambitious young man seeking fortune. The victorious person is the one who is master of her/himself. Meditation on empathy and compassion is one excellent way to attain personal victory.
It seems strange that I still find a spark of inspiration from that singular athletic victory to guide various events in my life. I guess the important thing to take from a victory is to not let it go to your head. Just savor victory and ponder the spectrum of victory’s implications.
The Blue Jay of Happiness thinks everybody should experience at least one victory, as a test of his or her humility.