What is Victory (Pause for Thought BBC Radio 2 May 7th)
Over the years my idea of victory has changed somewhat. In my younger days, filled with the naïve certainty of youth, I saw myself conquering the world, acquiring vast riches, fame and all that sort of thing. That ambition has been rather tempered by reality, as it tends to be, but thankfully I no longer see world conquest as even a desirable victory.
How I see success depends of course on my values and as a young man material achievements were high up on my list. This tends to be the paradigm instilled in us by modern living, earn more, have more, and find more happiness. As I've grown older I’ve come to understand that having more things in this world --whether possessions, fame or fortune -- will never make me happy. That seems to be the case for many of us, and indeed our consumer society is built upon this fundamental fact. If I am satisfied with the phone, or car, or clothes, or whatever it is I own then so many industries would pretty quickly dry up and die. But thankfully for them we are not so easily contented. In the universal search for that bit more happiness, we crave the latest, newest and better model of everything and business is booming.
But will it ever make us happy? Lao Tzu, a great Chinese philosopher, said, ‘he has the most who wants the least’. In other words, what we really want is contentment and peace of mind. We’re hoping that our acquisitions will somehow satisfy us and make us happy, but it never seems to happen. For this reason the ancient spiritual treatise Bhagavad-gita says that only one who subdues the ever-demanding senses can be peaceful, not one who strives always to satisfy them. It goes on to say that one whose mind is not controlled won’t be happy even owning the entire earth and all its wealth.
For this reason I now see victory as conquering over my own material wants, turning them away from the things of this world and inwards towards the spirit within. That to me would be the greatest possible victory.