Rivalry. It’s human nature to oppose one another. Look to any competitive sport from chess to MMA, curling to baseball, poker to football. Gamification is part of the fabric of our society. Reality programming depends on it (Chopped, Cupcake Wars, Storage Wars, Survivor, Guy’s Grocery Games, Flea Market Flip, etc.). We are a society that has taken mundane and leisurely activities like food shopping and going to garage sales seem skillful, glamorous and savage. In these situations, you are with or against, friend or foe. A soup can sitting on a shelf is worth $1.50, but if that one can is the final item needed to claim a grand prize, its value increases, and we will let our baser instincts steer our shopping carts to victory, plowing over anything that gets in our way. Victory is mine, not yours! We seek out rivalry, and yet we are also hardwired for connection. What binds the seemingly diametrically opposed ideas of rivalry and connection are the belief systems, more specifically, all-or-nothing belief systems. Belief is not truth. Imagine this scenario. You go to a friend’s house to watch a baseball game: Yankees vs Red Sox. There are 15 people there, you being the 15th, and the room was divided equally with 7 Yankee and 7 Red Sox jerseys. From the moment you arrive, which was later than everyone else, the trash talking is intense. The rivalry is real when it comes to this game! These people all liked each other…unless of course the Yankees happened to be playing the Red Sox. Wearing no attire to suggest any allegiance to either team, someone asks, “Who are you rooting for?” Without thinking, you blurt out, “I don’t really care, I’m just here to hang out and watch the game.” Then, something interesting happens. You become the target of all the trash talk. You’ve done something remarkable. You’ve connected the disconnected. The rivalry disappears momentarily for a greater cause: the desire to learn whether you are with or against. You hold the key to giving one side some advantage. You could tip the scales in favor of one team. Neutrality is unacceptable. When this need goes unmet, the two opposing sides join together because they know where they stand and there is comfort in that. There’s discomfort in not knowing where you stand. Obviously, none of what happens in this room has any impact on the game itself. There’s something powerful about choosing to not choose sides, in not pledging allegiance to things that can divide,  compartmentalize and distract us from what’s truly important. Connection.

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Aspiring Stoic and Doting Father

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