We are born; we live; we die; and we fight endlessly about our beliefs about what happens after we die. While we live, we seek relentlessly to 'succeed' and we define ourselves and others as winners and losers based on the achievement of 'success'.
The yardsticks we use for success are all out there in the world. Our material possessions, our position in Society, the people who respect and care for us...and, yet, when we see someone succeed against odds, we respect them the more. Like when a Dipa Karmakar, who despite flat feet and lack of top class support, becomes a top gymnast. There is something in us that understands the inadequacy of the material measures we use and appreciates the fact that it is the character that is needed to achieve success which makes a winner.
But, yet, we do need the person to achieve the external success before we appreciate the character which caused them to succeed. The fact, though, is that it is invariably the character that makes a person a winner, whether or not the life and efforts of that person were crowned by 'success' as it is popularly understood.
And, yet, what indeed is character? It is easy for you to be an optimist, when life is going well for you. It is easy to be compassionate and empathetic when you are yourself not in dire need of compassion and empathy. It is easy to be determined when you are confident of success. It is easy to be courageous when the risks are minimal. It is easy to be honest when the consequences of honesty or the rewards of dishonesty are not too important to you. It is easy to be generous when it involves no major sacrifice on your part.
Life can throw curve balls at anyone. When your life turns to one of pain and suffering, can you maintain your ability to laugh? When you are yourself in serious trouble, can you rise above your tendency to self-pity and show compassion and help others in need? When you are fighting a battle which cannot be won, can your determination rise to the challenge of living every day to the full? When your life and your well-being are balanced on a knife edge every day, do you have the courage to rise above the inclination to depression? When you need something badly, can you still be generous with it?
When a life is so lived that the person's character will remain stable or become better when put to the test, THEN is that life the life of a winner. Other 'winners' are mere impostors, who have not been found out yet.
It is a privilege to even engage with one such true winner in a lifetime. To have been born to one - my mom, to have met one in office life and, now, to have known one on Social media is a privilege beyond compare.
I have written of my mom in Child-Like. I have mentioned the colleague in 'Do you have the courage to face going slowly blind?'
This is a tribute to a man who suffered from cancer and passed away recently; a man who never ever put up a single self-pitying post on Social Media, through all that suffering and could still find life funny; a man who could still take interest in the pursuits of his friends and help them where he could; a man who I wish I could emulate.
Rest in peace, Bennett Parrish! In the modern parlance, YOU are a true winner. Or, in the words of the Bard...
"His life was gentle and the elements so mixed in him that Nature can stand up and say to all the world, 'This was a man'."