A hit, a very palpable hit! Hamlet, Act 5, Scene 2


by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.

For some people winning is everything. Nothing short of it will satisfy. The mere idea of concession is repugnant to them, much less the possibility of losing or even being proven wrong. What drives this mania is not as you might imagine merely commercial interest. Nothing as palpable as that! Often the motivation is a simple psychical need to come out on top, as though winning were a vindication, a proof of correctness and perhaps even superiority, a crown on one’s head! It’s an addendum to the resolve of one’s own unshakable calm!

 Winning is however much like any other sparkly commodity. It discolours with age. The narrow and crude focus of winning is in the end a hollow victory. In a wider context and to the more resourceful, winning is interchanged for the scholarly latitude of process, the act of doing without consideration of the outcome. To the discerning mind, winning is frankly a muted triumph.

 In the openly competitive arenas of athletics, board games, gambling or horse racing one expects the incidence of an uncompromising decision. Where however the waters become shadowy is when this philosophy is generalized and applied to everything else one does in life. The heady ether of winning and the humdrum pathos of daily living are seldom compatible, not because there are no winners, but because winning is so distinctly irrelevant to what most of us do and feel in our very ordinary day. Once you remove yourself from the strict conventions of mutually acknowledged rules, the game becomes less of a contest and more of a battle ground.

 In everyday life an obsession with winning has destructive consequences. It robs one of any other desirable motives; winning is a covetous lover. As ready as most are to accept that you can’t always triumph, if one nonetheless keeps one’s eye on that goal, the inevitable defeat only causes its own subordinate injury. Oddly no matter how prepared we are to acknowledge that even the likes of Andrew Carnegie suffered an occasional loss, our disposition towards our own misfortunes is less high-minded.

 If then one embraces a loftier view of life than winning, what results? Well, it isn’t that one simply abandons hope of success. That would be an uneventful capitulation. Clearly no one would counsel another to do anything less than their best, the anticipation of achievement. But assuming it is inexorable that there will be disappointment, it behooves one not only to accept defeat but also to interpret it. In other words we have to add some brainpower to the experience of defeat. Often for example the cause of defeat is no reflection upon our own inabilities. There exists the very real possibility that in spite of our heartfelt industry, chance and other circumstance scheme against us. There may even be nefarious components at work. Never ignore the possibility that there are those who not only welcome but plan your disappointment. Life has its malevolent elements. It is not a pleasant admission, but “ça existe”.