Thursday, December 30, 2010


All of my kids have played sports of one kind or another as they went or continue to go to school. Sports, like wars, generally have winners and losers ... that's the way they are configured.

And one of the hardest things to do is to convince a kid to be gracious in victory. Even though they too have been on the losing end of the battle and know what that feels like, still they can't help gloating and strutting...sometimes in public and less often in private.

As I understand it, Alexander the Great may not have been entirely benevolent when he conquered vast lands and made them part of his empire, but one thing he did do was to make sure that natives of the land were a large part of the new administration... loyal to Alexander's vision and desires, perhaps, but still, speaking the native tongue and aware of native needs. He may not have been gracious, but he certainly was savvy.

A victory is one thing, but a victory full of gloating becomes no one, least of all the victor.

Not to mention the fact that gloating is bound to come around and bite you on the ass in a future tainted by chest-pounding.


  1. I feel like your last two posts, modesty and victory, both come down to respect and/or caring. I you actually respect or care for someone you will not gloat about your victories over them, and you would modestly let them have their moments in the spotlight. I think this is what turns me off about seeing someone gloat. To me they are saying, "I really don't care about your feelings or how you see things. Lets just reinforce my place as top dog here." If only people would say what they meant and act accordingly.

  2. This reminds me of the ode to Case 3 of tghe Record of the Temple of Equanimity (A.K.A., Book of Serenity, and in Japanese Shoyo Roku). Two lines from Tiantong's verse go:

    "The clear mind produces vast aeons
    Heroic power smashes the double enclosure."
    (T. Cleary translation.)
    The story about the double enclosure is that in Han Dynasty China there was a great general named Guang Wu. He and his troops were surrounded by the armies of two brothers Wang Xun and Wang Yi. The victory of the Wang brothers was obvious and so Guang Wu did not want to sacrifice his already weakened army in a useless battle and offered to surrender. However, the Wangs were anything but gracious in their victory and refused to accept Guang's offer of surrender. Thus faced with their life and death situation and the ingratious treatment by the Wang brothers, Guang Wu gave the inspirational speech of his life, rallied his troops and fought back, and you guessed it, won the day. For the Wangs it was the classic example of starting the victory celebrating before crossing the goal line.
    In the Zen context the surrounded general is our own true nature, and the surrounding armies are the two brothers "subjectivity" (the skandhas) and "objectivity" (the myriad conditions). Never underestimate the heroic power of your own true nature.