This week has been a big one for winners and losers. Of course the two-horse race in the United States saw President Obama secure a second term, victorious over Republican rival Mitt Romney. In Australia’s big horse race, the Melbourne Cup, a horse called Green Moon proved capable of winning more than once in a blue moon, and when it counted. In the big $100 million Oz Lotto on Cup night, four winners shared the jackpot. This week we all shared expectations of victory, or at least the sweet suspense of slender hope, the slightest sense of anticipation that things might change, for the better.
Yes, it’s been a week for cheers and champagne corks flying, for tears and drowning of sorrows. But I’ve been looking at this whole notion of winning and losing and don’t think it’s as straightforward as backing first-past-the-post (or not), picking the lucky numbers (or not) or even a securing a vote of confidence (or not).
I think there is a lot of value in taking a different attitude to winning and losing – one that isn’t black and white and framed by judgement, but founded in acceptance.
As far as lotteries go, we know the odds are long. We don’t really ever expect to win, but still…..we hold onto the slimmest of chances because the potential prize is so big. We buy a ticket because we wonder ‘what if?’, because we ‘dare to dream’. The dream/fantasy may be around what we think money can buy, but I think deeper down it’s about the very idea that our dreams can come true. A lotto ticket is a proxy for that prized feeling of freedom to live the life of our dreams.
We got five numbers plus a supplementary in the $50 million lotto draw a few weeks ago. The excitement built for Mr Yang as he ticked the numbers off. We won $382 – much less than we might have imagined, but still quite a bit more than the $46 that was the next prize on offer. It’s all relative. We felt both exhilaration and disappointment as we realised we had won, and then WHAT we had won. Our win was ‘better than a kick in the teeth’, or ‘better than a poke in the eye with a blunt stick’, or whatever other Aussies saying we could use to describe that strange feeling that whilst you’ve still won, you’ve somehow also lost. Grudging gratitude I guess.
I wonder whether the winners of the $100 million jackpot felt any sort of let-down when they realised the grand prize would be split four ways? Surely it’s absurd to feel even a skerrick (an Aussie word for smidgen) of disappointment about winning $25 million? I wonder how each winner plans to spend/share their winnings, whether they will spread the spoils so that losses are smoothed out, so that in giving, others also win. I like to remind the universe of what good could be done through me if only I won lotto – so far the universe hasn’t listened!
When it comes to horse racing there are all sorts of scientific methods (apparently) for picking winners. So scientific (apparently) that you get to hedge your bets by backing a horse ‘each way’ (ie for a win or a place) with your $5 punt (last of the big gamblers!) You can get fancy by taking a quinella or trifecta, upping the odds, the ante and the potential prize. Or you can pick your winner by name – I ‘scientifically’ backed ‘Quest for Peace’ and ‘Lights of Heaven’ in the Cup – the ‘spiritual’ formula not so successful! With horse racing, especially on a big day like Melbourne Cup, the excitement is in the atmosphere and the sense of occasion, more than in any expectation of winning. We talk of having a ‘flutter’ (which describes that funny feeling you get in your stomach when your horse is leading, or coming close, down the home straight, only to be overtaken by the eventual winner). That feeling is in the fashions on the field and office sweeps, chicken and champagne lunches and celebrity spotting. Oh and the race ‘that stops a nation’. And when it’s over, it’s usually the bookies who’ve won, or at least pocketed the most. But unless we wage well over our heads, do any of us really feel like we’ve lost? Mostly we just enjoy the Melbourne Cup, even though the useless betting tickets, scattered like so much confetti, would indicate otherwise.
Which brings me to the US election race that really stopped a nation and the world. The stakes are high. In money terms, Mitt Romney’s campaign reportedly cost $750 million, while the Democrats spent a reported $850 million to secure President Obama’s re-election. There can only be one President, and I personally feel that such an important job deserves two terms, and that President Obama has the potential to leave a lasting legacy of change, for the better. But politics aside, no election is ever really a total victory. No one candidate ever secures all the votes even when they win a convincing mandate, and sometimes they scrape over the line by the slimmest of margins. Some Americans are feeling like they have won, while others feel that they have lost. President Obama was humble in victory, Mitt Romney gracious in defeat. Now the best we can hope for is balance, an equilibrium that comes from acknowledging our differences, and perhaps a sense of unity in understanding and accepting them.
So that’s my take on winning and losing this week. Winning and losing are both sides of the same coin. Sometimes when we flip a coin it comes up heads, other times tails.
Whether we really win or lose can come down to how we call it.
What do you think?
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