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Monday, February 13, 2006

 

Three Failures

1. After a night of passion with last year's Miss World, George Best fell asleep on a big pile of banknotes and was woken by a waiter bringing his champagne breakfast who shook his head and asked, "George, where did it all go wrong?"

2. A hundred years ago, a wealthy American businessman signed a million-dollar contract with a shakily-drawn X, and explained that he was illiterate. "You're a self-made millionaire and you can't _write_ your own name?" gasped the vendor. "Do you know what you would have been if you could?" "Yes I do," said the businessman, "if I could only have signed my name the day I got here from the old country I'd have been janitor of the Pedestrian Street synagogue ever since...."
(Some similar ones over at snopes; or there's Maugham's Revised Anglican Version, if you prefer...)

3.Rupert Brooke:

Because God put His adamantine fate
Between my sullen heart and its desire,
I swore that I would burst the Iron Gate,
Rise up, and curse Him on His throne of fire.
Earth shuddered at my crown of blasphemy,
But Love was as a flame about my feet;
Proud up the Golden Stair I strode; and beat
Thrice on the Gate, and entered with a cry --
All the great courts were quiet in the sun,
And full of vacant echoes: moss had grown
Over the glassy pavement, and begun
To creep within the dusty council-halls.
An idle wind blew round an empty throne
And stirred the heavy curtains on the walls.

Wandering thoughts on these Three Failures:

1. Best enjoyed telling this anecdote. He'd achieved the lifestyle of his dreams; why would he want to crawl out of bed on a cold morning and run around the soccer field when he could get liquered and loved up to his heart's content? On the one hand, the admiration of skinheads, bezitted adolescents and low-ranking hotel staff; on the other, booze & babes. I don't think it took him too long to make up his mind.
2. Succeeding at something good prevents us from succeeding at something better. Become a janitor and you'll likely never become a millionaire. A Sucky Job (such as my appalling Sucky Job #5, or the still more hideous Sucky Job that followed it - which I will get around to blogging about one of these days) may zap your brain so thoroughly that it may prevent you from seizing opportunities: for Non-Sucky Jobs, for becoming a better person, for joy and happiness. (Certainly, when I was mired in the depths of my last Sucky Job, it prevented me entirely from blogging. That's why my greatest admiration is reserved for people like Dean Esmay or Robbie Taylor, who can plough through Sucky Jobs and still keep doling out the free icecream to the blogosphere.)
3. In his poem, Brooke achieves the ultimate success of storming heaven, and finds that the paradise he imagined is a deserted ghosttown. This concept - that to achieve your goal and find it worthless is the ultimate in failure, worse than abandoning the goal before it is reached - is either a very deep philosophical insight or the product of a very diseased mind. And, judging from this, this, this, this and this, I'd have to go with the diseased mind theory. Brooke was a thanatophilic miseryguts; a kind of gaijin Mishima, right down to the hungering after violent death. Still, he talked purty.
4. At any rate, we can take comfort from the thought that "There is no such thing as failure. You either get the result you expected or you learn something from the experience", which has always struck me as being a rare example of a motivational soundbite with genuine teeth; actually, it's the most succinct statement of the scientific method I've ever come across.

(Inspired by this incident).

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