heaven’s lead

The best captain doesn’t rush in front.
The fiercest fighter doesn’t bluster.
The big winner isn’t competing.
The best boss takes a low footing.
This is the power of noncompetition
This is the right use of ability.
To follow heaven’s lead
has always been the best way.

Lao Tzu
Ursula K Le Guin’s version

We have nothing to prove to one another. There’s nothing worth bragging about, and so there’s nothing worth losing. When we are confident in our abilities or even just trusting of our abilities, there’s nothing to lose because you know what you have and what you gained.

It’s those who most need competition that you should be cautious¬†around.

This reminds me of all the many literary competitions that exist. Assuming such a thing even made sense in a practical or ideological way, it would still be a silly thing to bother with.

Art is not a competition. Life is not a competition.

I’ve participated in several literary competitions in the past and I’ve never won, and while it bothered me at the time, it doesn’t now, and hasn’t for a long time. There are countless reasons why I didn’t win those competitions, but the simplest explanation is that I didn’t write work worth praising.

This shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s ever been involved in the arts. It’s interesting to me how far I’ve come in just the last year. While I have a bunch of novels I wrote in the past couple years, I very much doubt I’ll ever publish any of them, since what I’m writing now is just so much better than what I was writing two years ago, five years ago.

I gave up on literary competitions for a lot of reasons, though none of them were the belief that my work was unworthy. I’ve always liked what I write! But it just became a silly thing to do. Even setting aside my ideological and moral issues with literary competitions, there really is no reason to pin works against one another.

Art has value, even when most people don’t like it. Even when no people like it.

Self expression is valuable in and of itself, and so there’s no reason to even compare it to another work to try to determine which is better.

Art is made to provoke thought or emotion.

If you’re doing that, you’re succeeding, in a general sense.

The same can be said of just about everything. It makes sense to compete in sports, but does it matter if you win or lose?

I don’t think so.

Humility is strength, because it comes from an understanding of who and what you are. The humble are less easily shaken than the vain or the gloryseekers.

So just love what you do, and keep doing what you do.

We don’t need an audience or attendants or awards. We just need to be.