On Winning

I just read a book about winning.

No, it wasn’t Dale Carnegie’s book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” — that’s a book one of my children just read, and keeps quoting to my chagrin.  It’s not that I don’t like Dale Carnegie.  Honestly, I never read any Dale Carnegie other than the random quote.  It’s just that winning friends has never been my goal life.

And influencing people?  God placed eight of them right in my home and gave me great opportunity to influence without ever reading Dale Carnegie’s book.  Indeed, more than Dale Carnegie, I probably subscribe to William Rose Wallace‘s treatise on influence, summed up with the refrain —

For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.

But winning, oh, winning is a funny business.  I’ve read and heard many coaches talk about winning.  I suppose, as a swim coach, it should be a higher priority to me.  Winning, however, is not always the first person who touches the wall.  I’ve seen that truth more times than I can count.

In fabric stores I’ve seen shirts and mugs that say “She Who Dies With the Most Fabric Wins.”  I smiled the first time I saw it, but cringed a little inside.  Accumulating stuff makes us a winner?  I don’t think so.

Back to the book on winning….

IMG_1094I just finished reading Leif Enger’s book,  So Brave, Young, and Handsome.  It’s all about winning.  Told as a winding journey from Minnesota to Mexico, a reader might think it’s the tale of a writer, or a boat-builder, or a fugitive, or a Pinkerton.  While those characters are part of the story, the story really is all about winning.

SPOILER ALERT:  If you’ve never read the book, I may reveal some things about the ending that you may want as a surprise.  Personally, I don’t like being surprised in books.  I read stories the way the ancient Greeks watched plays, not so much to know the ending, but rather to know how the author gets there.

In the book, Siringo, a crusty Pinkerton agent, captures his man.  The last words we hear Siringo say are, “You are not winning,” to his quarry.  It is pitiable.

Siringo thinks that he has won, just as so many people in the world think they have won when they achieve some long-sought goal.    It must be like getting to the top and finding no one there.  It’s not winning.

A turn of the page reveals the winner and what winning really is.

I don’t know that I ever saw a stranger event than Glendon’s surrender to Charles Siringo, for at the same time that he lost everything — the very direction of his own steps — he won the thing he’d held so precious he wouldn’t approach it in words.

He won Blue.

Winning is surrender.

I thought about the scene in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, when Aslan slowly walks to the White Witch in surrender.  Her evil army shrieks with glee as they bind him and cut his mane.  She thinks that she has won.

It’s the deeper magic, however, that rules the day.  A magic of surrender.  A magic of love.

Love wins.

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?…

Matthew 16:26


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