Sunday, April 3, 2016

Winning and Losing: The Marriage

early April 3: the play of light and dark
Have you noticed in the sports world how many #1s there are? While this might seem ludicrous, almost a parody on excellence, I wonder how this claim toward the top might signal a positive pathway.
         Let’s not be na├»ve about it. The reach for the crown carries a dangerous aspect. Given the dominant paradigm that offers only one ultimate champion, the multitude of claims for being the best often leads to disappointment and heartbreak for everyone but the one winner, generating despair and broken dreams. Viewed rather cynically, this championship enterprise markets gambling, along with drinking and drugs to distract from the pain of loss.
         Yet these dangers do not disqualify seeing a multitude of teams chanting “We’re Number One!” as an opportune moment. In Good Stories, we explore this paradigm-changing potential through teaching-narratives when we probe the depths of archetypal constructs, especially marriage and treasure. As we all know, fairy tales often build to the climactic wedding. This motif opens consideration of the “marriage of opposites.” How, then, do we marry winning and losing?
         Before we move directly into that question, let’s also note a companion theme that helps open the mystery: the treasure. But treasure is also a polyvalent window; it’s a threshold or opening to another world where the prize shifts shape and where what has been lost gets found. Or, in other words, trash turns to treasure.
         We entered a Good Story this week about twins who initially appear as opposites: beauty and ugly. But, in the way of story, it’s the  unattractive, troublesome one who deals with the trolls. And it’s the loss of beauty’s head, a saving transgression, that empowers their travel under the edge of the world and on into the double wedding, the marriage of opposites in a dialectical transcendence where new vision recognizes beauty beneath the superficial.
         Can we imagine a world that sees beauty as the power to deal with dark forces instead of the number of zeros after the dollar sign? The teaching on treasure is continued redemption. Talents are to be wisely invested in the purification and renewal of life, not hoarded and buried away.
         Playing games that mean for us to lose puts us in the face of our fear of ultimate loss, dying. Rilke resonates this in our wrestling with the angel, asserting, “This is how we grow! By being defeated, decisively by constantly greater beings.” John Dominic Crossan in The Dark Interval: Towards a Theology of Story tells: “game is a very serious practice session for life and death, or, more precisely, for life towards death” (p. 5).
         When we and our athletes have to absorb the loss of the dream of being national champion, do we find redemption? Among the variety of possibilities, let’s consider the world of multiplicity.  To struggle with the marriage of winning and losing builds a world with space for paradox. How do we learn to continue to live as if winning is the only thing at the same time that we accept defeat by constantly greater beings? How else do we learn to go under the edge of the world? We must move beyond the world that wins at small things because we realize the loss when winning gains the whole world but loses the soul!
         Crossan says that we live within story where myth and parable shape us “to be human and to remain open to transcendental experience” (p. 39, Dark Interval). In this paradoxical world formed in the Winning-Losing wedding, our treasure chest stores the liberating role of not-yet-sense.  Storytelling’s redeemed from the poor-box where it’s often relegated in contemporary academics. Instead of the singular presumption of objective reality, the gold coins become Uncertainty and Indeterminacy, affirmed even by quantum physics (e.g., p. 116, Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning.)
         There is no closing to the mystery wedding of Winning-Losing, but a few lines may serve to keep us going:
“And the wonder and mystery of art, as indeed of religion in the last resort, is the revelation of something ‘wholly other’ by which the inexpressible loneliness of thinking is broken and enriched.”  Wallace Stevens, Opus Posthumous, p 237. (Quoted in Crossan, In Parables, p. 2.)