It was 1893, religious leaders from all religions had gathered at the Parliament of World’s Religions. While they were resting in a common room waiting for the inauguration, they had piled up their books on a tiny table.
On seeing his book on top of the pile, he jokingly remarked "My book is on top, that denotes the superiority of my philosophy!" While the others were countering that, the young monk from India, Vivekananda whose book was at the bottom of the pile remarked, "Mine is the base of all your books, if you pull it away, they will all fall.”
For most of my life I’ve been encouraged to strive to reach the top of the pile. To score the highest at school. My handwriting had to be the prettiest. I was immaculately dressed and always sharply turned out. My manners were impeccable and I was the darling of the teachers.
In my case that lasted all of a year or two. I rapidly became disillusioned with the futility of the race and gradually dropped into the opposite side of the spectrum. While it may have appeared counter productive, I realise today, many many many moons later, that I’m better off for it.
Playing to win adds a sense of competition that keeps one on the edge and primed to win.
Playing the fool (as I was wont to do) helped me enjoy the years with a levity that few could claim.
It’s funny that years later, I’m aiming to encourage the adults around me to play the fool, play truant and come down to the bottom of the pile, instead or trying to work your way to the top. Unlike Vivekananda, I’m not going to share the mysteries of the universe, but I’m sure you will discover them yourself through play.
For all of you seeking to reach the zenith of your fields. Striving for the heights of excellence. Hungrily seeking knowledge to be the best you can be. I invite you to take a break and come play with me. Play offers freedom from competition stress, while still demanding intense attention and all of one’s energy in a potent combination. One that will propel you to places you’ve not even dreamt of.
Don’t be shy, it’s more fun to fail than it is to succeed! And fun is the base of all things...
Don’t believe me? Never mind, it hardly matters until it does. Instead go read Swami Vivekananda's Address at the Parliament of Religions, in particular the second lecture on 'Why We Disagree' - a wonderful reminder on why we should play nice together!