Victory or Defeat: Each Brings Its Own Challenges

FIFA_2014A World Cup produces victories and defeats. Out of 32 teams, 31 will eventually go home defeated at some level. The last victory and the last defeat will happen today—July 13, 2014—when Argentina and Germany play for the title of World Champion.

One might think that the victorious team will be showered with total bliss, complete happiness—but the Tao Te Ching insinuates that both victory and defeat are to be feared. Here’s what No. 13 of the Tao Te Ching states:

Favor and disgrace would seem equally to be feared; honor and great calamity, to be regarded as personal conditions (of the same kind). What is meant by speaking thus of favor and disgrace? Disgrace is being in a low position (after the enjoyment of favor). The getting that (favor) leads to the apprehension (of losing it), and the losing it leads to the fear of (still greater calamity):—this is what is meant by saying that favor and disgrace would seem equally to be feared.… (Lao Tzu. Tao Te Ching. iBooks.)

The question raised here is this: Does the Back-to-the-Body Perspective offer insights as to how to deal with victory and defeat?

brainIf we consider the metonymies “stomach,” “brain,” and “heart” (see here for the meaning of these terms), it would seem that the assessment of whether a certain deed represents a “victory” or a “defeat” originates from the brain rather than the stomach or the heart. It seems, moreover, that any perception of “honor” or “disgrace” also has to do with the brain rather than the stomach or the heart. Therefore, issues dealing with victory, defeat, honor, and disgrace have to do with the brain—which is interpreted as being the “tree of knowledge of good and evil,” whose fruit the First Book of Moses warned us not to eat (Gen. 2:17).

Victory and Defeat Are Measured by the Brain

victory_defeatThe brain is meant to be the Great Servant of the body, providing its service with humility. But the brain can be haughty and arrogant. When faced with victory, the brain will receive honors, accolades, praise—and the experience of honor may lead to arrogance. Therefore, the best way to deal with victory is to display respect and gratitude toward the opponent, for, without an opponent, no contest is possible. When victorious, it is good to be humble.

Equally challenging—or perhaps even more so—is how to deal with defeat and failure. Defeat brings disgrace, dishonor. The defeated person should, however, reach down into the depths of his/her being and bring out a strong sense of worth in order to maintain balance and dignity. Thus, in defeat, remember your accomplishments and all the reasons you have to be proud.

Maintaining Balance Both in Victory and in Defeat

stumble_danceBalance is thus maintained through seeking opposite virtues. In victory, remember your humility; in defeat, remember your pride. We can see, then, that even in matters of sports—such as dealing with victory and defeat—the Back-to-the-Body Perspective can offer helpful insights on how to live a good life.

I conclude with a quote:

… all of this was extinguished in me like a light, and mute and mournful as a shade, I sat there and sought the vanished life. I did not want to lament, and nor did I want to console myself. I threw away hope like a lame man whose crutch has been spoiled for him; I felt ashamed of weeping; I felt ashamed of existing at all. But finally the pride broke out into tears, and the suffering that I would have liked to deny became dear to me, and like a child, I held it to my breast. (Friedrich Hölderlin. Hyperion. iBooks.)

Paulo-Juarez Pereira
July 13, 2014
Right before the start of the final game of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Ypsilanti, Michigan, USA


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