Imagine a world without competition and measurements, where there are no comparisons of speeds, distances or ratings between people.
The value of opposites: without a standard of measurement, we could not evaluate unpleasant things, nor beautiful things. Opposites create value and meaning in our experiences.
Competition has ancestral origins and stems from the desire to be stronger than others to ensure survival. This instinct is still present in us, although in different forms.
Let’s play a game: suddenly there is no more competition, competitions do not decide rankings, there are no rankings because no one is worse or better than anyone else.
In short, the terms of comparison are lacking.
Better yet: metrics no longer exist: times, distances, speeds.
We are reasoning in absurdity but, often, doing so helps us understand the value of what we take for granted and makes us imagine how different everything would be if one small detail changed. Okay: that metrics no longer exist is not a “small detail,” but follow me a bit on this walk into the absurd, I promise we won’t get bored.
The whole thing was the brainchild of the always excellent Barry Fralick:
What happens when metrics vanish?
For example, would a hot shower feel incredibly good if we had never experienced one that was frigid?
How could someone be rich if there were no poor?
Would there be urgency in living if it weren’t for death?
If it weren’t for bad things, there would be no good. It is the unpleasantries of life that allow us to appreciate the finer moments.
Yeah: what would happen if not only metrics disappeared but also, more generally, any terms of comparison? Not only would it no longer make sense to measure oneself, but opposites would no longer exist: there would be no faster or slower people, no hot and cold, no beautiful or ugly. The fact is that we need opposites to value things because nothing has absolute value and everything must be measured in relation to something else.
At this point you might think, “If you run for the sake of running without preparing for races you are already doing it to the exclusion of competition and comparison.” In a sense it is true and it is the purest sense of running, and that is “running for the race itself,” but it is also true that, again, there is a form of competition and challenge, and that is to oneself. After all, you do it to improve yourself, to be better, to be fit. And so: against what and how could improvement be measured if there were no terms of comparison? Even running just for the sake of it anyway involves a measurement system.
We could understand even better what we are talking about if we changed a few words: we are not just measuring ourselves but giving ourselves a value, and it would not be possible to do this if there were no system of measurement. Then we are human and, as they say, size matters. As soon as we can put them on this or that we start inexorably making rankings, no escaping!
The deepest sense
However, if we extend the meaning of the above, we can glimpse that there is something even deeper. It’s not just about doing a personal best or getting ahead of this or that.
Indeed, what is the origin of the competition? First of all, it is a way to compare the performance of different human beings, with the purpose-often forgotten-of challenging limits that are thought to be unbeatable.
In an even deeper sense, however, it is based on the almost unmentionable desire to be stronger than others. Why? Because being so gives the illusion or hope of survival.
Does it seem too much? However, think about how the competition came about: it is not a modern invention. After all, people have been competing forever, since well before the Ancient Greek Olympics.
Measuring oneself in short served to get an idea of one’s chances of survival. Or confirmed it, in a very ancient age. After all, it was not about running faster than other human beings but about a predator that could kill you.
This is no longer the case today, but it is likely that something of the genetic code of our ancestors has come down to us: after all, many metabolic mechanisms still work by taking advantage of the human operating system developed millennia ago, just think of the ways in which we store fat.
In short, competing is natural, just as it is to make comparisons and in short, to measure oneself.
By the way, as they said before, it is mainly to make us appreciate what we have, whether it is running or the health to be able to practice it.
Knowing that it never hurts to do so.