Miriam Weiss   Writer & Aesthetic Realism Associate

What's Wrong With Competition; or,
      Is Anything More Important Than Being Superior?
From an Aesthetic Realism Public Seminar
by Miriam Weiss

At age 17, just beginning my study at an innovative college which I felt was superior to schools which offered such ordinary subjects as English or science, I found myself unable to sleep and was very nervous. I tried to get consolation from the fact that other people were not doing so well, and wrote in my journal: "Now that I ve met some people from school, I don t feel so left out. They don t seem much more connected than I." But I felt something was terribly wrong with this way of thinking well of myself. I wrote further, "As long as people are not more connected than I, I’m happy--now isn t that sick.?!"

Nine months later I was to meet in Aesthetic Realism, the knowledge that explains the hurtfulness of the drive to be superior and competitive and teaches the proud alternative.

In Self and World Eli Siegel explains:

The most dangerous and ugly thing about competition as we have it today is that it works to nourish and maintain the neurological belief that unhappiness in someone else is happiness for us.

This belief is contempt, the lessening of something else as a means of self increase, as one sees it . And I came to see that my contempt, my desire to be impressive by looking down on things, was the reason I had been so nervous and fearful.

Yes, there is something more important than being superior! Aesthetic Realism shows it is the ability to see meaning in reality and be fair to it. From our earliest moments, we thrive on the air, food, warmth the world provides, and as we grow, everything we see and every person we meet adds to us. The central thing wrong with competition, I have learned, is we pit ourselves against what we were born to like: we make the world an enemy we have to get the better of.

In one Aesthetic Realism class, Miss Reiss presented with stunning logic, what is wrong with something everyone has felt--not liking it when someone is good or better than we are. She said:

If the goodness of another person takes away from us, we could never benefit from humanity. Any novel we read would have to be something we wrote; any music would have to be music we composed...People have gotten into institutions because of this. As soon as we want good to come to us--somebody had better be able to do something better than we can...."If we see value in something, is it only a credit to the thing valued, or credit also to the person doing the valuing? ...The purpose of mind itself is to value truly.

Growing up, I had pleasure seeing value in things through reading books like The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking and in attending talks for young people on archaeology. I was moved thinking of people who lived in ancient Mesopotamia, for example, as I saw the everyday objects they used, unearthed after thousands of years. But I also had feelings, which I have learned were completely against seeing true value. While I often envied other children, I took for granted I was of superior stock. My family and I went to more plays and restaurants, had a large, beautiful apartment and, something which shows how pervasive and ridiculous the thirst to be superior is, I even assumed we were better because we used Hellman’s mayonnaise in our tuna fish. I felt if I didn't have something to distinguish me from other people, I would be a nothing. But with all my conceit, I was timid and lonely.