Competition LO18182

Richard C. Holloway (
Sun, 24 May 1998 13:44:54 -0700

Replying to LO18168 --

thank you for asking. as I respond, I'm more than ever aware of myself as
a man (and as a man-child), wondering about the differences between men
and women and how they might approach similar situations differently.

Roxanne Abbas wrote:

> "I'm reminded of Ortega y Gasset's words: "The essence of man is
> purely and simply danger. Man always travels among precipices, and,
> whether he will or no, his truest obligation is to keep his balance." If
> the essence of life is truly "danger," (as I perceive it to be), then
> honing my competitive and cooperative skills and being prepared to use
> whichever of these help me maintain my balance is the choice I make. As
> with all things, being too competitive or too cooperative is dysfunctional
> and will, eventually, cause my fall from the precipices. "
> Even with your follow-up explanation, I don't think I understand this
> statement. I have never thought of the essence of my life as 'danger'.
> Can you say more to help me understand this perspective. Also, please
> tell me how being too cooperative would be dysfunctional.

I live along the I-5 (that's Interstate Highway 5) corridor, which runs
from Canada to Mexico along the Puget Sound, and Pacific Ocean of Oregon
and California. Their are about 3 million people living in this rather
small region we call the Puget Sound--many of them (and our neighbors from
north and south and the millions of visitors we receive each year) seem to
use this regional section of the interstate highway, simultaneously. It
is without question one of the most dangerous places in the world--a place
where hundreds are injured and dozens killed each year.

Next to this I5 corridor runs another corridor--a volcanic one. From Mt
Baker to Mt Ranier, then Mt St. Helens (just in Washington State)--on down
to the volcanoes of Oregon and California. These are living volcanoes--as
St. Helens recently reminded us. When (not if) Rainier next goes,
hundreds of thousands of people will be displaced--many of them injured,
perhaps killed, in the natural disaster. The I5 corridor also runs along
a series of geological fault lines (the most famous of which is the San
Andreas). This is near the region where the tectonic plates of the
pacific floor and the north American continent slip and slide like unruly
lovers--shaking the bejeezus out of the 35 or so million people who live
along this corridor (just in California, Oregon and Washington). We are
also subject to the other natural disasters--winds, lightning, tsunami,
and so forth. No need to mention all of them. We live in a dangerous

Back to driving I5. We must cooperate to survive on I5. Competition is a
dangerous method to use when driving--but there are many competitors on
the interstate. Some of them use guns to get their point across. Or
their vehicles. I vote for cooperation here (very functional). But,
being assertive is also important in advocating our place on the road
(horns, lights) to avoid being pushed off the road (sometimes a real
need!). We are competing, even in a cooperative way, for our space on
this road.

I also once had a neighbor who put his fence on my side of the property
line. I asked him to move it, and he said he'd be happy too--he was
sorry. After 6 months, I reminded him. He seemed cooperative again--but
another 6 months went by--he still didn't move it. If I had cooperated
with him for another 5 years, the property on his side of the fence would
have been his. I felt we were in competition over this little piece of
land--and I forced him to move his fence.

In Kosovo, right now, there is an intense competition over ownership of
land; over issues of autonomy. These are very difficult issues--but
these people are descendents of the same people who have been competing
with one another over issues of autonomy and control in the region for

So, how can cooperation be dysfunctional. I really detest what I'm about
to do--but it's simply the easiest metaphor to conjure up at this time.
Gary Cooper, in the role of the town sheriff in High Noon, faces a similar
question. The love of his life, a conscientious Quaker girl, insists that
he leave the town--that he avoid the violence that will occur if he does
not, that he capitulate his principles and cooperate with the "bad" guys
by leaving town. The entire town agrees. There is the scent of fear and
danger in this town--and the peace officer can only bring peace by leaving
the town to negotiate the terms of their surrender to the criminals.
There is competition here between order and disorder; society and
anti-society; right and wrong. Moral issues competing with one another.
Does he leave? Does he stay?

This scene of dysfunctional cooperation has been played out countless
times in life--Chamberlain's capitulation to Hitler; in the US, the
success of McCarthyism--the support of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution by
Congress. Cooperation has been too often a euphemism for capitulation,
surrender, choosing the substance of life over the quality and integrity
of life.

I recently watched a wonderful movie that seems to exemplify much of what
I've attempted to share here. "Some Mother's Son," starring Helen Mirren
(here's a website I found for you, if you're interested
<> ) is the title. It shows the story of
the hunger strike waged by IRA members/sympathizers in prison, fighting
for their need to be seen as political prisoners rather than common
criminals. There is intense competition displayed here among the
different parties--against the backdrop of the mother's need only to save
her son, to cooperate with authorities to save his life, despite the
issues over which her son and these others wrangled.

Roxanne--my heart is moved by the standing up for what is right, against
the fear or threat of death. To live within this dangerous world seeking
quality and integrity of life, and not capitulating or surrendering into
intimidation or fear. There are many ways each of us may interpret our
lives within the sense of this need to struggle. Perhaps I see it as
competing for what I understand as righteousness against the evil or wrong
in the world. (pretty scary, eh?) I am very grateful, though, for people
like yourself (as I interpret you) and others who ensure the perpetuation
of humankind through cooperative efforts. This is why I see the constant
balancing between cooperation and competition as necessary -- a yin and
yang which spells wholeness in our relationships with our world and one

I hope I've provided something intelligible--but now I'm off to face the
dangers of I5. Hopefully, with the right balance of cooperation and
competition I'll survive!

walk in peace,


"Only a life lived for others is worth living."  -Albert Einstein

Thresholds--developing critical skills for living organizations Richard C. "Doc" Holloway Olympia, WA ICQ# 10849650 Please visit our new website, still at <> <>

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