Sunday, June 2, 2013

Paradoxical Commandment #7
Imagine this setting.  100 million years ago or so.  Dinosaurs rule the world.  Mammals have spread out around the globe, but despite the fact they have been around for 100 millions years already, their small size and relative “newness” keeps them from ruling the Earth on their own.  Who would you root for in this scenario?  Would your twitter feed fill with trends like #dinosrule or #mammalsaregoingdown?  Whose facebook page would have more likes?  100 million years ago, I would have to say the inaccurately named “terrible lizards” take the cake, leading us to Dr. Kent’s paradoxical commandment number seven:

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

Have you ever rooted for an underdog?  Honestly, every time I root for the San Antonio Spurs, the sports media makes me feel like my team of choice is the underdog.  Every time.  No matter who they play.  Getting off my soapbox now before I hijack my own blog post.  Go Spurs Go!  Ok, now I'm done. for the underdog carries a thrill.  The NCAA basketball tournament holds a special energy anytime a Cinderella team makes it through the first couple of rounds.  The country seems to collectively exhale when they finally lose, though.  At some point, our culture became programed to trust completely in the hierarchy of value rankings.  Though we might root for the underdog, when the team “supposed” to win does, the tension dissipates and everything returns to normal.

If asked to place a bet on who wins a war between the globe’s preeminent political power with the world’s strongest military and a small agrarian society whose army primarily consists of conscripted militiamen, who would you bet on?  Exactly.  George Washington might take offense at your bet.  Twitter hashtags #HappyBirthdayUSA and #thanksforthehelp @France @Spain @Netherlands.
Humans have a general fear of change.  We prefer routine.  We like normal.  We crave stasis and dislike situations which challenge our world view.  When an upstart crawls towards the top, whether in sports, business, politics, or social situations, our skin crawls along with them.  Without underdogs, without change, our world fails to evolve.

Finding the right underdog to support might take difficulty, but given the right foresight, and the right level of support, an underdog can rise to change the world for the better.  Rooting for an underdog, while possibly requiring personal sacrifice, should never feel reluctant.  Reward rarely comes without risk.
Bet against me, did you?  Coming for you, I am.
Talk like Yoda, I do.
The fledgling underdog founded in 1776 would not have succeeded in throwing off the oppressive mantle of the British monarchy without support from European allies.  They saw the value in the American revolution and sought to gain assets of their own against the world’s superpower.  After all, doesn’t the world love to watch as those at the top get knocked down a couple rungs #TigerWoods.,_artwork-spl.jpg
"Thanks for the help Chicxulub!" said the mammals.
Fan love for the dinos seems easy 100 million years ago.  Their size dominated.  Their ferocity frightened.  They ruled.  But circumstances change, giving underdogs a chance.  65 million years ago, something happened to give the small, mostly underground dwelling mammals the edge.  They rapidly filled in the ecological void left by the absent dinosaurs, leading to their current dominance the world over.

Never count an underdog out.  Follow paradoxical commandment seven and get behind them instead.  You never know what they might achieve with just a little help.

- I first encountered an adapted version of the “Paradoxical Commandments,” titled “The Final Analysis,” while listening to a Wayne Dyer audio CD in my early twenties.  The meaning and message struck me as true, helping guide my thoughts and actions as I developed from a big kid into a real adult.  Later, I discovered the poem was not actually written by Mother Theresa at all, but adapted, framed, and hung on the wall in her Calcutta orphanage.  She cared about its message enough to use it to empower the weak and marginalized children to whom she gave her life.

The Paradoxical Commandments are reprinted with permission.  © Copyright Kent M. Keith 1968, renewed 2001

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