One of my favorite characters in fiction is Nigel Molesworth, a slacker who attends St Custard's skool along with a variety of cads, swots, snekes, prigs bulies and headmasters (all sic) in a series of books penned in the 1950s by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle. I remember laughing myself silly, even when the light of meaning was so faint I could barely make it out. (A chiz is a swot or a swindle as any fule kno.)
One of Molesworth's guiding dicta came up in conversation the other day. No matter wot skool you go to, your team always lose. I got to thinking about the truth in that statement. It's not that we lose every game or fail every test or get dumped by every employer -- but those are the moments we remember. Somehow -- some asinine how -- we focus on the losses in our life. They matter more. When I win at poker, I am pleased. When I lose, I am sickened. The stakes are not high, but somehow I can get quite upset thinking about ten dollars I no longer have to spend. Sinking a long putt (this never happens, but if it did) makes me feel good -- but not as much as a missed short putt makes me feel bad.
I can tell you (thirty years later!) how it feels to miss the home-room class presidency by one vote. I can tell you (more recently!) how it feels to have her shake her head and say, Oh, Richard, I don't think so. I can't tell you much about my good reviews, but I sure remember the bad ones. (There's a librarian in Ohio who urged people not to read one of my books because the premise was so disgusting. Don't buy it, she wrote. If you have bought it, take it back without opening it. She didn't offer any advice if you had read it. I guess you were beyond saving at that point.)
Why are we made like this? Why is pain stronger than joy? Is it a deep-seated all flesh is grass kind of thing? I do not believe in original sin, but if I did, this would be one of my arguments in favour.
Molesworth shrugs off losing. So wot, he says. Go in and hack someone. Maybe that's the best approach. At least you get in a few kicks before the referee blows the whistle.