23 March 2014

Feeding Yourself (Sunday Meditation #37)

Chewing my way through a shrimp po' boy the other day, hunger doing its best to overcome disgruntlement at being surrounded by competition culture. The sandwich proved to be a fair balm, but only just. Meditation on society and culture should not be done on an empty stomach but perhaps it is to be avoided whilst eating. Especially hard to do when surrounded by big screen TV's and noisy folks watching the game(s).

Nowhere is safe it seems, in this modern society, from the illness of competition. Everything has been turned into some sort of sports metaphor, with all of us required to give "110%" and to "bring it" when it is "game on". All the time, 24/7. And I am quite tired of it.

Even cooking and eating are not spared the lunacy of win or die. I noticed this one night this week while watching a cooking show on the tube, the name of which rhymes with "Flopped". I do enjoy watching the chefs work creatively under impressive constraints, but it became clear to me with the episode in question just how pernicious sports and gaming "culture" have gripped our sensibilities.

The announcers, the chefs, the ads, all using the language of conquest, domination and war. It isn't enough to create something amazing for its own sake, it has to "crush" the competition it "came after". The erstwhile chefs throw shadow punches and talk about their fellow contestants as if they were weak neighbor nations in possession of natural resources to be pillaged. They must be "taken down" and "dominated" because they are all "here to win".

It is a conundrum I face every time I set out to cook something or write something: for whom and why do it? The truth became apparent to me as I ruminated on the sandwich I was devouring. To focus on domination, humiliation and subjugation of others as "winning" is to have already lost the game. Whether it be cooking a meal or filling the pages or sending a ball through a hoop, the true competition lies not in overcoming others, it lies in overcoming one's own self.

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