I think I get what you’re saying, @drewie. Let me know if I’m off base.
You’re right about the world being unforgiving; most people don’t get a second shot at the Grail Castle. There is a cost to choosing kindness over competition, and we get the chance to make that choice over and over every day. I don’t expect that being tender means being naive; Ted said to “be like the goldfish” and forget past hurt, which feels naive. He also says to “be curious, not judgmental,” and “do the right-est thing,” which are both much closer sentiments to the one I hope readers take away from this essay. There are lots of reasons, situational and institutional, that allow Ted to come out ahead. If all of us bent a bit more and had that same compassion for ourselves and others, we may be surprised what would happen.
To be blunt, “nice guys” don’t finish last because they’re nice, but because it’s a quality that isn’t valued in our society as much as competitiveness, power, and rugged individualism. (Note: this is a totally different conversation if we talk about “nice guys” in the romantic sphere, so please take all of the above as regarding more concrete endeavors! I’m talking specifically of career here, based on what we see of Ted and Parcival’s aspirations.)