Rivalry is good. We are all aware of this. A rival ‘ups’ your game; demands that you try harder - takes away the cosiness of your comfort zone, your satisfaction that you’re trying your best.
Often rivalry improves more than your own standards. Take debate. Ideas are thrashed out, leading to all sides being heard, and a balanced view arising. In politics, such debate is how societies are regulated, proving the importance of such rivalry.
Yet rivalry can be a religious thing.
Some elements, here, are obvious. God verses the Devil – an understanding of good and evil. Indeed, mystical traditions such as alchemy are grounded in rivalry.
Alchemy is about opposites, best symbolized in the alchemical image of the face of the beautiful young woman on the reverse side of the face of the wise old man. Rivalry, it seems, is more fundamental in the religious sphere.
The idea of good verses evil led to western ideals.
Fundamental to our way of doing things is the idea that things can be normal or abnormal. What is ‘normal’ is whatever we see ourselves as being. Everything else is abnormal, or wrong. This is rivalry in concept, in philosophy, in our very bones.
Yet this form of rivalry can also lead to persecution, to conflict, and is maybe the wrong way of looking at it. In eastern philosophies, rivalry is seen in terms of influences towards preservation and destruction. Yet they are held together by a life force which provides balance.
Maybe this is how rivalry should really be seen. For in balance, each side is weighed, but the conflict is stopped. I think we could learn a great deal from eastern mysticism – the west’s rival, as it were.
(c) Anthony North, April 2008