Zero Sum

I turned on my computer and the first news flash that popped up was about the two babies leading in the vote for the cutest celebrity child contest.  Seriously, there are adults comparing the physical attributes of small people still in diapers.  Why?  Is cuteness in such short supply that only a few lucky children possess it? Zero sum refers to a scenario where there is one winner (+1) and one loser (-1).  When added together, the sum is zero.  Zero sums are win-lose scenarios where scarce resources result in some people obtaining what they need while others go without.  Such situations are competitive as people jockey for their share.

Healthy competition compels us to work hard and reach our best.  Athletes push themselves to achieve greater distances, speed, and points.  Political races force candidates to sharpen their understanding of issues and respond to constituents' concerns.  Actors spend hours preparing for an audition that may last only minutes.  In all these circumstances, there are winners and losers because of real  scarcity--only one person jumps the highest, only one candidate gets elected to a particular office, and only one actor can play a single role.

What I object to is the extent to which we have become a zero sum society unnecessarily, one in which we declare winners and losers in areas of abundance rather than scarcity.  As much as I enjoy movies, television, and music, I am struck by the sheer number of award shows that announce the "best" actor or musician.  Is brilliant artistry a scarce resource?  For many years, my neighborhood honored the house with the "best" Christmas lights and decorations (making the assumption that, or not caring if, everyone was the same religion, a topic for another time).  Is holiday beauty and cheer a scarce resource?  Why make these experiences zero sum even though splendor is infinitely available?

The problem is not with any single silly competition, but when we become bombarded with multiple, if not excessive, unnecessary win/lose scenarios.  Our collective thinking gradually shifts from believing there is abundance in much of life, to living as if scarcity surrounds us.  This cultural brain tells us we must look out for number one, ourselves, in every situation and that another person's blessing somehow diminishes us.  Soon negative emotions, such as jealousy, seep into our way of being.

We have no choice but to learn how to better manage our scarce natural resources, but there is no reason to create a mindset of artificial scarcity.  Is love in short supply?  Is there enough beauty for all of us to enjoy?  Is there plenty of available knowledge for all of us to keep learning?  If so, then we must replace competition with collaboration where appropriate and declare a moratorium on fake shortages.  We'll feel better individually, which leads to a more generous and giving society.

Babies, including celebrity kids, are the embodiment of pure love.  Parents know they have enough love for every one of their children, that they don't have to choose which child gets love and which doesn't.  Love, like beauty, joy, and laughter, is not a scarce resource.  How sad that we have stooped to comparing which of these darlings is the cutest.  I'll pass on this vote.  I hope you do, too.