By Bob Fisher
Life, as we know, is complicated. At the center of life is competition. All of life is a competitive process – for success and sometimes for survival itself. This is why competitions are so popular. It is why competitive sport is so popular and even raised in our consciousness to the point where a team represents a town, region or country in the perceived competition against its neighbor, because even when there is not an actual war, nor even overt commercial competition, we feel a tribal need to compete, in some way, against those around us because genetically we are cooperative predators: pack hunters.
But this human competition is a funny thing because it has been overlaid with a strong intellectual component so that even in its most extreme expression, which is outright war, we feel the need for “fairness” and have evolved “rules for warfare” under the Geneva Convention. We feel that whatever the type of competition, “no-rules” is an unacceptable situation. We don’t like chaos and mayhem, but prefer to destroy each other in a more orderly way. And so for all competitive situations, we develop rules, whereby those who think they have triumphed and those who suspect they may not have, can agree the outcome by some means other than resorting to violence - that dislike for disorderly mayhem again.
The expression “All is fair in love and war” implies that these two situations, in spite of our intrinsic need for rules, are times when the rules are most likely to be broken and mayhem to erupt. This is reflected in the loss of life in “crimes of passion” as well as during wars. The Oasis community has a strong element of love in its make-up but I am hoping that there will be no outbreaks of inter-personal violence or mayhem. I do, however think that we should always take steps to ensure this situation never develops.
A couple of weeks ago Oasis announced a Pie Competition and when I read this announcement, my initial reaction caused me to pen most of the blog above, concluding it with some off-the-cuff suggestions for additional rules. It seemed to me that we had set up an inter-personal competition within the community with no detailed rules and I hoped that no-one would resort to the customary use of custard tarts as offensive weapons to resolve the results. I know that, in fiction, a human and a large feline carnivore survived a sea voyage in a row boat together, without the benefit of pre-existing rules, but my recollection is that they did evolve rules as they went along in order to ensure their mutual co-existence.
I sent the initial draft of the blog to a couple of the Oasis board, knowing that I was skating on thin ice with the implied criticism, but also hoping the humor would come through. There was some back and forth on the content, particularly around the rules, but the most illuminating outcome was the result of some personal introspection.
I realized that my initial reaction was the result of my tendency for obsessive analysis. I know this is genetic because one of my farming relatives told me he can’t drive past a field of cattle without counting the number of animals. This mildly obsessive trait in my personality has been useful to me at work where I was part of the management team for construction projects in the billions of dollars, where failure is not an option, everything has to be specified and you always have to have a plan B and a plan C as well for the critical stuff.
Unfortunately, I often approach my personal projects with the same obsessive thoroughness. Sometimes I waste my time, and I know it even as I am doing it, but I do get personal satisfaction from it. However…. for pie-making for a community lunch???
In spite of the blog emphasis on competition, my concern over the rules was actually not driven by a desire to win the competition but rather by my obsessive need for understanding and my never-ending quest to make that world a better place (because that’s what engineers do). I guess I’ll just cook something I like and hope others like it as well… but I really do hope no pies will be thrown.