Gymnastics, both beautiful and thrilling to watch, is an event for the young — and sometimes the very young. This evening on TV, I saw a competition among gymnasts who were 7 and 8 years old. Midway through the program some of the children were interviewed. I was startled to hear one of the girls (I’ll call her Laura) say, “I don’t think I should have to compete against Cathy (also a made-up name). I already beat her yesterday.”
I reminded myself that she’s young, not yet schooled in how life works. She will mature, learn about life, and even be humbled by it. And one of the big lessons to learn is that one day’s success is not the end of the story.
As stated by British-Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein:
Resting on your laurels is as dangerous as resting when you are walking in the snow. You doze off and die in your sleep.
Laura hasn’t yet learned that every day is a fresh start. When we get up in the morning we continue the path that ended the evening before, though we are not limited by it. We are not “done” just because we happened to win one day; nor are we doomed to failure just because that’s what occurred the day before.
As we grow and mature, we learn that every day requires doing “it” again, whatever “it” is. We are not excused from showing up. Ironically, if we were to try this, our previous accomplishment might be interpreted as a fluke and our excellence might be labeled as sheer luck.
Elements of both progress and growth are also components of this situation. Through persistence, we might improve our results. Some of the ways we do this is through practicing, being coached or instructed, studying our competition, being motivated by our own potential, or changing strategies. We can also revise our goal to something more feasible yet still inspiring and challenging.
Laura doesn’t yet grasp that on the other side of this story is another little girl who is eager to improve and give her own best performance another time. Feeling empathy for others, including our opponents, is a loving and generous attitude. Related to compassion and universal love, empathy means identifying with and understanding the reality of others. Through seeing the nobility of the other person, coupled with respect for the event itself, we become genuinely interested in our competitors and wish them well, win or lose.
Putting earthly events into time perspective, `Abdu'l-Bahá wrote:
. . . in the sight of God the past, the present and the future are all one and the same . . . relative to man, the past is gone and forgotten, the present is fleeting, and the future is within the realm of hope.
And then continuing with this idea of each day being a fresh start and each event being a prelude to others, we might consider another passage from `Abdu'l-Bahá. It tells us how this works, not just in sports and the arts:
Mathematicians, astronomers, chemical scientists continually disprove and reject the conclusions of the ancients . . . everything continually changing because human reason is progressing along new roads of investigation and arriving at new conclusions every day. In the future much that is announced and accepted as true now will be rejected and disproved. And so it will continue ad infinitum.
Whatever our age, every day can take us forward — closer to our potential and nearer to our goals — whether we are concerned with sports, arts, business, innovation, or any other human endeavor. Through perseverance, optimism, recognition of the contributions of others, and the willingness to work with them, we can redefine what it means to win and discover the benefit of each day’s fresh start.
© Jaellayna Palmer 2017