Mediocrity: a laudable goal?

Book Display: Niles West High School 50th Anni...

Last year a neighbor’s son sent an announcement that he not only is graduating from high school but he is academically #1 in his class.

Nice going kid!

I began thinking about being number one and the competitive pressures our society builds into the fabric of our culture to be a winner, #1, compete and claw to the top. Perhaps to outmaneuver your buddies,  get the next promotion, make ‘bazillions’ so you can have a trophy wife, a McMansion, and send your kids to the best private schools.

Whew it’s tiring!

I contrasted that with something we’ve all heard that even the doctors and dentists who graduate last in their class are still called doctor. You can take that notion and apply it to any schooling or training for that matter.

We never examine the assumptions and implications built into be #1 way of thinking. Since only one person can be first in their class, CEO, Executive Director, President, are the rest of us losers?

I got a different prospective from an article written by a fellow named Shodhin who identifies himself as, “a  Zen Buddhist priest and currently serves  as Head of Zendo at the Chicago Zen Center.” In his article, “Barely Succeeding at Not Being Much at All, ” he says:

“Every once in a while it hits me that I am not tops in my class or at anything I happen to be involved in. Not a single one. No one seeks me out because of my expertise. No one needs to get in good with me because I have a ready store of favors to bestow…..I am neither at the top or bottom of a chain of command. I have to say I’m thoroughly middle of the pack…..”

He paints himself as unremarkable, and lacking enough greed and ambition to get ahead, and doesn’t even seem to mind.

I think this has a huge bearing on aging in today’s society. It’s  another one of those unspoken realities that creeps in when we’ve left the job force, the kids have gone out on their own, friends have moved away or passed away, and we ‘re  left with a lot of silence and questions. While there’s definitely a time and place for outside activities, volunteering, bonding with the G-kids, there still might be a question or two that needs reconciled. Is it ok to be in the middle of the pack? Can we make a success with being plain and simple?  Are we still greedy for fame, glory, and the American way? Is it ok to meet people and when asked what do you do simply answer I’m retired without feeling the need to say any more about who I was and what I was earlier in my life?

Just standing in place and being present is hard but I think a important way to age


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