Race or Journey? (The Quick and the Dead)

It’s very tempting to look at life as a race when you’re one of the fastest runners. And the race of life isn’t just for a little, shiny medal. It’s to see who gets the lion’s share of stuff—big money, a good job, fine schools for their kids. No wonder the winners like this model. And you slower folks, well you just need to train harder, sweat more, buckle down gosh darn it so that you too can snatch up a little piece of bread before someone else stuffs it in his mouth. Yeah, those fast, smart, talented people, especially the ones born with a 100 meter head start, just loves them their competition. Too bad about that kid with the sprained ankle, the old person, the woman with a baby—heck, they just make it easier to place higher.
That race analogy is appealing of course—appealing to our ego, our vanity, our belief that nobody’s better than me. And people aren’t better than you, at least not more deserving. But you know damned well some are faster, wilier and have families with more money and connections to make up for any shortcomings in speed and smarts. So who benefits from the perpetuation of this appealing fantasy? Who needs to convince a bunch of average people that they’re just as fast as professional triathletes, just as likely to win a prize even if they’re born so far behind the starting line they don’t even need to be elbowed out of the way. “Yeah, you people can do it! At least you could if that pesky ol’ guvmint hadn’t tied your shoelaces together. Yeah, that’s why you’re not pulling in six figures and your kid’s on drugs instead of on a football scholarship. It’s the government’s fault! Get out there and fight! Pay no attention to those men behind the curtain.” This sound like anybody you know?
In America, the life-as-race analogy isn’t even questioned. It’s part of who we are, just like high infant mortality, mass shootings and preventive war. Well it’s a shitty analogy that’s been scrapped in a lot of the civilized world, and it’s past time for an upgrade here in the USA. How about thinking of life as a journey, a wagon train, a caravan to a far-off destination? There is no “win” in a journey, just the need to get as many people as far as we can each day in as good a shape as they can be. If a scout leader takes kids on a hike and some get left behind, hungry and lost, that scout leader has failed, no matter how quickly the first kids get to the next camp site or how many merit badges they chalk up. We’re all in this together, people. Seen anybody in the Republican debates who thinks like that? Me neither.

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