Thursday, August 21, 2008

Failure and Success

What is failure? What is success?

Is there any effort so useless and unprofitable as to be called an unqualified failure?

Is there any success that is not qualified in some way?

Or, in the face of overwhelming empirical evidence that tells us, time and time again, that no experience is ever--indeed can ever be--wasted, are we required to modify our definition of the terms, 'success' and 'failure'; and, more importantly, moderate our response to these two extremes of human effort?

Of course we do, but we just don't like to acknowledge it. At one end, it seems obvious. We can easily admit that there is no human effort so flawless in design and execution that we must acknowledge it as perfect and thus never again need repeat it. It makes common sense to conclude that nothing we humans have ever done--indeed, nothing that anyone has ever done (or will do!) can ever be perfect. It also makes sense that the reverse is true, but we rarely look at it that way. There really cannot be a human effort so vain and counterproductive that there is absolutely no benefit accrued from it. Even the most horrible and disastrous of events has some elements of success, even if that is but a change in direction.

Discarding the two extremes, we find ourselves in familiar territory. it is, however, but one end of the spectrum we are most familiar with. We 'try, try again' because we never, never seem to get it right. No athlete, no artist is ever satisfied with their performance. Who doesn't want to get better, doesn't.

Failure is as elusive as success. Even in our dreams we know we will wake, and even in our most miserable waking moment, we dream. Always and forever, relentlessly toward the center we fall, our best efforts to crawl up and out of the pit notwithstanding.

Is it any wonder, then, that we do not easily accept defeat nor readily rest on our achievements? Neither condition is truly acceptable for us; neither is human, yet both are only that.

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