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Hardly a week goes by when someone, something or an entire country isn’t defined in this way. I’m sick of it. ‘One of life’s winners’ most commonly describes a celebrity or other notable, while ‘life’s losers’ I’ve seen variously applied to murderers, rapists and even a student who failed his A-levels. Harsh.

In addition, I know a couple of people who see life as something you can win or lose – and it’s a theme that reoccurs in conversation with them. It’s interesting to note that both these people believe they’re ‘winning at life’. One of them is a successful business owner, the other has a very rich spouse. Both are deeply competitive, ambitious and intelligent – and don’t mind labeling other people, ‘losers’.

I really struggle every time one or other of them frames someone like that. It makes me yearn for an alarm that is activated by idiocy.

The first difficulty I have with the concept is that no-one knows what life is. The question ‘why are we here?’ is one of life’s fundamental puzzles; some of the greatest minds have been defeated by it. So, if we don’t know what life is, how can we win or lose it?

Then, neither of these people obtained a comfortable status in life by themselves. They were both helped to a vast extent by other people – parents, partners, friends.

Can you really claim you’re winning a race when other people have helped move your legs?

On a human level, I find the winner/loser concept obnoxious, poisonous. It’s thought imperialism of the worst order. It’s symptomatic of the kind of prefab journalism and throwaway conversation that has replaced the spirit of true humanistic understanding and enquiry. It’s also very much part of the spirit of this age; junk concepts slapped on others to illicit reaction. Step back and ask: ‘why do I need to label other people like this?’

Gain and loss are often more intricately connected than we like to admit or care to notice. In creating ‘big wins’ that are public and easy to acknowledge, many private losses are often necessary. Think of the successful businessman who ‘wins’ at his career but ‘loses’ his marriage. Or the nation that ‘wins’ security with a nuclear deterrent but incurs ‘losses’ to the environment with radioactive waste.

The relationship between gain and loss is therefore part of the same journey of change. More relevant and helpful to all of us is to lose categorisations in life that limit us and our understanding of others.

Instead of winning, perhaps we have overcome something, or mastered something, or survived something. Let’s get specific. Let’s be accurate. And above all, let’s be humane.

Statistically, one in one person on this planet dies. Defined in these terms, we’re all ‘losers’ at life. Redefined, we’re all part of a great journey – and that’s a winning concept.

© gvons 2016

 

 

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