Life as a race

Life is often compared to a race. (Sometimes to say that it’s not a race.) And some memes have it that life is a marathon and not a sprint.

Sorry, but that’s incorrect.

Life is not a sprint, true. It’s also not a marathon. Life is not the kind of race where everyone starts at the same starting line and finishes at the same finish line.

Life is a relay race – and it’s not held on a track, either. It’s cross-country through wilderness, and the route isn’t marked!

Your starting point is the position your parents achieved when they launched you out of childhood to run on your own. That starting point is the position they achieved after “running” from the position their parents were in when they hit adulthood.

So yes, there are quite a lot of people who are born to greater opportunity and privilege than others, through no effort of their own – instead, it was the effort of their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. that afforded them a better starting position.

Some families make it to nice terrain, smooth and fairly even, without too many obstacles. Others find themselves in deep canyons or on steep hillsides covered in obstructions. Those facing difficult terrain can look at those running in open fields and wonder why such “injustice” exists. However, the truth is, everyone who runs on a plain only got there because at some point in the past, their ancestors climbed out of difficulty themselves. No one is “magically” born on a plateau. And it’s certainly possible for a runner to make a wrong turn and fall off, just as it’s possible for those below to climb upwards.

The relay race of life stretches back into the distant past beyond living memory, beyond even archaeology. At the beginning of humanity, no one was born with the advantages even the “disadvantaged” moderns possess. And it will stretch far into the future, as well, for every person who has descendants.

That’s the shape of reality, a consequence of the nature of human lives. We’re not spawned as eggs in streams like salmon, to all hatch in the same place with the same advantages and disadvantages as one another and facing the same journey ahead of us.

Given this reality, it would behoove society to arrange itself so that the routes up to the meadowland are clearly marked and kept as well-maintained as possible – rather than trying to hobble the runners who are already there to make the race “fairer.” Throwing boulders and digging pits in the smoother parts is never going to help the runners stuck in a valley full of ankle-turning rocks.

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