The Man in the Arena

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This article has been submitted by Sohini Chatterjee for the CLATGyan Blog Post Writing Competition. If you think this article is a good read, ‘Like’ this article on Facebook (the button is at the bottom of this piece) or post a comment using the ‘comments’ section below.

Choices. Life demands that we make choices. Choose. Coffee or tea, blueberry cheesecake or carrot salad, call or text, Fred or George, splurge or save, blue pill or red pill, engineering or law, punctual or late, merge in or stand out, lie or say the truth, Congress or BJP, Reactionary or Radical, give in or go on, yes or no. More often than not, it comes down to two choices. It’s either this or that. And the choices we make will make all the difference. They have the potential to alter the course of our life to an unimaginable extent.

“ I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze, but I, I think maybe it’s both. Maybe both is happening at the same time.”

–       Forrest Gump

We have always been taught to be satisfied and thankful for what we have. Though I agree with this in principle, I do have a problem with this axiom. If we all were to be satisfied with whatever we have, mankind would register little progress. It is the urge for something more that spurs us to go that extra mile. The dream of a better future, the hope of something even more wonderful than the present has to offer. The lure of the new and the unexplored. That is what should prevent us from being completely satisfied. Complete satisfaction leads to complacency and complacency leads to stagnation.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

–       Theodore  Roosevelt

In April, 1910, Theodore Roosevelt delivered a speech on “Citizenship in a Republic” in Paris. Among other things, he spoke of The Critic and The Man in the Arena. This quotation had inspired me at a time when the future looked pretty bleak as I had so much counting on just one examination – CLAT. There was nothing else I wanted as much and nothing else would do. The Doubters remarked “But look here, the chances are very slim.” The Realists said, “Think about it practically. You need to have back ups. You’re being foolish and impractical by risking so much”. “What if it doesn’t work out?” But only one thing resonated in my mind. “What if it does?” And that was enough.

Who are The Critics? They are the ones who tell you how you’re doing it wrong. They are the ones who will never miss a chance to bring you down and let you know how it could have been done better. They are the ones who will be intent on bursting your bubble and bringing you back to reality.

Who is The Man in The Arena? This is the guy who refuses to be average. He is the face in the crowd. He shuns mediocrity and aspires to be the best he can possibly be. He could never see as others saw and had never done something just because everyone else was doing it. He is the one who had realised long back that it is easy to be satisfied when one has tame ambitions. If one aims to be average, one will seldom be disappointed. The problem arises when one dreams great dreams. The Man in The Arena has resolved to not let the herd mentality and mediocrity all around him interfere with his dreams. It is not that he makes no mistakes. After all, mistakes are just a part of the process. He lets his dream transport him from the acme of ecstasy to the depths of despair. His enthusiasm and conviction shine through his eyes. Of course he realises that there exists a prospect of failure. He understands that there is a possibility that his dream might shatter and the detractors will celebrate it as their own personal victory. But what the detractors will never understand is that he is far above them and the mediocre majorities. For they have never known victory or defeat because they did not dare to challenge themselves. The Man in the Arena will either see the dream he risked everything for come true, or he would have failed after daring and trying valiantly.

Choices. Life demands that we make choices. Whether you want to be satisfied with being average or not. Whether you want to be like the rest or not. Whether you want to do something just because everyone else is doing it. Whether you believe in your dream enough, so as to withstand attacks from all quarters, and yet manage to transform it into a vivid reality. Whether you can disregard the pessimists, naysayers, critics, sceptics, cynics and do what you believe will bring you happiness. Whether you want to be The Man in the Arena or not. Choose.

Sohini Chatterjee,
Batch of 2016,
National University of Juridical Sciences.

20 COMMENTS

  1. Love the optimism, Sohini! You instill hope by your beautiful words, and make us want to take a leap of faith and go for it. Thank you. 

  2. Love the writing! But well, you always wrote well. 🙂 and you were right, I did love it. 
    While we are talking about choices, I really feel, that choices are in fact a manifestation of socialization. The most courageous way to be The Man in the Arena would be to extract oneself from this illusionary conundrum, something I personally find extremely difficult to do. Using your excellent analogy, The Man in the Arena would in my opinion, construct his own definition of ‘average’ and ‘mediocrity’. What is mediocre in someone’s opinion, may be exceptional in the opinion of The Main in the Arena. I’m not glorifying mediocrity here, and this video here will put across what I want to say in a much better way perhaps way- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULRosL7AOpk
    Keep writing! 

    • I understand what the Binghamton University speaker is trying to say, but I don’t agree with him on many counts. For one, I feel that it is a waste to aspire or want to be average. You might end up being that, but aiming for it is quite another thing. 
      And thanks for the kind words. 🙂

  3. Dear Sohini,

    Very well written ! I am proud of you for portraying positivity in such a lovely way.

    “Choices” are there at every stage in your life. I choose to be the “Man in the Arena”. I might fail but at least I know that I tried my best and that gives peace to my mind.

    Love,
    Susmita

  4. I love the way the thought and the language flow. It is important to be the optimist as well as the realist, to emulate and preserve what is good in a system and accept criticism with an open mind, to be brave enough to dream and humble enough to be satisfied. It is comparable to being a team man and a disciplined follower and at the same time, have the innovation to show the way, lead by example from the front. Guess that is applicable in a way to virtually everything in life, a little bit of something and a little bit of the opposite.
    Last but not the least, feels great that my dear niece could appreciate the importance of making choices. May God give you the courage to BE IN THE ARENA, always in life.

  5. “We have always been taught to be satisfied and thankful for what we have. Though I agree with this in principle, I do have a problem with this axiom.”

    I find the statement paradoxical. I interpreted it as positioning one-self with the available self-worth and aspiring forward like a sprinter before the start of a race. Every man in his own way is a fighter – that is human nature. Attributing complacency to someone without being in their feet could be arrogant and insensitive. As you said, choice has no choice…You have to make it…even not choosing an action is a choice. The Man in the Arena, (when the Arena is the real world) does choose under the existing constraint. I have faith in human endeavor, hope in human spirit, and respect for the humility of a human. I think the one can be satisfied and be thankful for what he has and be the Man in the Arena to make choices – both are complimentary to pass through the physical world. Good luck!

  6. Very well written!! congratulations to you that your motive to write this article is appropriately fulfilled..you have propagated hope far and wide, a hope to go out of one’s way and walk that extra mile, take the risk regardless of the outcomes. I loved reading it.I would now choose to be the man in the arena and defy all odds! thanks for the inspiration.

  7. Sohineyyyyyyyyy!
    This is so well written. I am so proud to have you as a senior. You have inspired me now and I am indebted to you :’)
    To criticize Hopesh is much much easier than being Hopesh, I guess 😉

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