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Most of us would like to reach some sort of position in society; hopefully higher than where we might be now. President, general, corporate CEO. Or maybe just a councillor on the local school Board. Maybe it’s a position of status you’re after. Fastest, richest, loudest, best shot or most notorious; anything at all so long as you’re better than your neighbour, sibling or worst enemy. The games people play to out rival others can be the most exciting spectator sport of all!

It doesn’t matter if your game is delusory. What matters is that at least one other person shares some enthusiasm for the endeavour with which you seek to engage. Competition to be the grower of the biggest potato in the village matters if at least just one other person is also after that crown. That battle to be the best can be just as hard fought with passion as any other war.

I’m thinking back to one status war with which it was my pleasure to engage. A truly wonderful spectacle of pointless endeavour! It was to do with wicker chairs. A row of wicker chairs to be precise. You see, to sit in one of these chairs was true sign of success. They were a row of chairs circling inner sanctum space landscaped to define a devotional space of splendour through which to acknowledge (our collective antagonisms and jealousies for) the big boss man in charge. Just like a row of water fronting villas on the edge of some over developed bay, these wicker chairs fronted – and held back – echelons of lesser chairs behind. They girded his royal elevation from the swill of lesser plastic chair sitters behind. Rows and rows of envious wannabes. To sit in a wicker chair at the front, you needed to be at the front of your own career. You needed to be a professor who had published lots and lots of papers in journals that probably no one else in the world would ever – or could ever – read. The more abstract and impenetrable your arguments might be, the more chaotic and abstract your numerate/arcane dead-language purple prose, the more empathic you’re journey to a possie on one of those front row wicker chairs. You must indeed be clever and superior if no one else could understand a word! The more arcane your writings, the less the chance someone else would dare to admit they didn’t have a clue! Yes, the furies of incomprehensibility were a hard fought war of words and portulent posturing. The prize was to sit in one of those wicker chairs! And listen to endless drivel surrounding the administration of exactly nothing for a group of people blissfully anchorless to the practicalities of the rest of the world.

I never got to sit on one of those chairs. I had much more fun watching the sport from the hard plastic chairs behind. It was a sport of pontificational fury with a subtlety of innuendo and vacuous point scoring that would bore the otherwise comatose audiences of championship snooker, the zombie thrill seekers of world championship cricket – or lawn bowls enthusiasts; all words and wind, signifying ultimately, nothing at all. So I took up farming instead!

Now I’m wondering about the very concept of fame. Is life’s biggest goal really to occupy some dodgy wicker chair, or to gravitate to that corner office; of simply to be called ‘sir’? Is it ever just about the height of your pile of cash? Is it about the size of your house? Or yes, about how fast or far you can ride a bike?

It’s the rules of engagement rather than the nature of the games we play that matter most. If your game is to lead, but all you’re trying to lead is a bicycle race, then the tool of engagement is just your legs. If your game is to lead an empire, the tool is an army of guns or diplomats. If your pathway is through war, not everyone’s going to be equally impressed. Someone’s going die. Or at least loose their house. That battle for the wicker chairs was pretty tame. The fallout was just envy and spite; rather than much in the way of blood. The game to assert individual beliefs is much much worse. Mad mullahs empowered via the compulsion of bombs is a different kind of engagement to be sure. To have our view of the world be constrained via the slit-visioned veils of some one else’s prejudiced beliefs is a tough shroud to wear.

Which is why we should all sit back and reflect on the harmless glory of sports that engage only through personal fitness and the capacity to play well as a team. That’s why cyclesport is a model for the sustained future of our race. Consider the energy of a prospective corporate tyrant or of one who would become the chief faschist in charge. How much better for all if those compulsions to grind could be diverted to pedals instead!

I have a vision! Imagine a word where all wars of ego could be resolved through summiting a col rather than mountains of underlings. Where the energy of success is measured by personal power meters rather than by the energy of other people’s resources if not by their blood and misery. Board room brawls should be resolved through heading out for group ride. Military summits should be negotiated through climbing a hors cagegorie hill rather th through poker play with a stock of nukes. At least let’s restrict our quests for personal supremacy to thrones of no greater stature than a row of wicker chairs.

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